California by Edan Lepucki
A Novel

64%

33 Critic Reviews

My trouble with this book was not its failure to live up to genre conventions — any good story can get away with breaking the rules. But I was disappointed that the characters remained thin, even through plot twists and revelations that should have granted them life beyond the page.
-NPR

Synopsis

The highly acclaimed, instant New York Times bestseller that "shows the moment-by-moment reality of a painful possible future, the price we may have to pay for our passionate devotion to all of the wrong things." --Sarah Stone, San Francisco Chronicle


The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can't reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
 

About Edan Lepucki

See more books from this Author
Edan Lepucki is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a staff writer for The Millions. Her short fiction has been published in McSweeney's and Narrative magazine, among other publications, and she is the founder and director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles. This is her first novel.
 
Published July 8, 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. 401 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Arts & Photography. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jul 27 2014
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for California
All: 33 | Positive: 17 | Negative: 16

Kirkus

Below average
on Jun 15 2014

The chapters alternate between Cal’s point of view and Frida’s and are heavy on flashbacks that bog down an otherwise tense narrative of survival. This has the bones of an excellent book, but, sadly, an untenable amount of flab is covering them.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on May 05 2014

Lepucki focuses on Cal and Frida’s evolving relationship and their divergent approaches to their predicament. As seen in chapters told from their alternating perspectives, the less they trust each other, the more tension mounts, building to an explosive climax that few readers will see coming.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Jeff VanderMeer on Jul 03 2014

...characters traverse a cross-section of mid-collapse landscape, framed by the gradual decline of civilization. This approach may seem too optimistic given dire news about melting icecaps and acidic oceans, but it does allow for a reading of the novel as satire...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Amity Gaige on Sep 04 2014

The experience of reading California brings validation to anyone who sits upright in the middle of the night struck with the instability of the human project on this planet: others are awake, too. And a lot of us are reading California.

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NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Ellah Allfrey on Jul 07 2014

My trouble with this book was not its failure to live up to genre conventions — any good story can get away with breaking the rules. But I was disappointed that the characters remained thin, even through plot twists and revelations that should have granted them life beyond the page.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by KAROLINA WACLAWIAK on Jul 10 2014

Lepucki's cautious dystopia never quite asks the right questions of us, ultimately to the detriment of the novel.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Andrea Battleground on Jul 21 2014

The novel plays around with the concepts of family, obligation, responsibility, selfishness, and the cost of ideals in a way that is compelling and timeless, milking a completely devastating yet believably simple narrative out of what initially seemed like a stale, well-trod premise.

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The Maine Edge

Good
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Jul 09 2014

“California” is a rendering of an all-too-feasible near future, one richly imagined and fraught with peril and pain...a gut-wrenching mindworm of a novel, a tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

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Huffington Post

Good
Reviewed by Maddie Crum on Jul 01 2014

The kicker that sets California apart from, say, Lord of the Flies, and the many stories it's spawned, is Lepucki’s astute insight into the complex, and often conflicting, emotions women attach to childbirth today.

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The Boston Globe

Below average
Reviewed by Clea Simon on Jul 17 2014

The result is episodic and at times forced, as if the author ran into problems reaching her desired, and admittedly chilling, ending. It’s a rookie mistake in a mostly solid first book — but one that doesn’t bear up well under close study.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Matthew Jackson on Jul 01 2014

The result is not only a singular post-apocalyptic novel, but a debut you won’t want to miss. California will lure you in with its mysteries, seduce you with its secrets and haunt you long after you’ve finished it.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good
Reviewed by Margie Romero on Aug 31 2014

Ms. Lepucki doesn’t labor over her sentences – or least she doesn’t appear to. Many of her descriptions are charming...Although the world of “California” is nightmarish, the love that Ms. Lepucki describes is what everybody dreams of.

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Open Letters Monthly

Below average
Reviewed by Justin Hickey on Jul 31 2014

If only California was written with a fraction of the charm you’ll find in the average mass market fantasy novel. Instead, Lepucki trades in secret pregnancies, secret clans, and a faux-dedication to realism. Next time, maybe she’ll throw in a vampire.

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Oregon Live

Below average
Reviewed by Natalie Serber on Jul 28 2014

Lepucki has done a marvelous job creating and populating a near future that is, unfortunately for us, pretty easy to accept...Where Lepucki falls short is in the thin depictions of Cal and especially of Frida...

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PopMatters

Above average
Reviewed by Chris Barsanti on Aug 11 2014

There is little here that manages to get its hooks into you. Some of that has to do with Lepucki’s spaced-out style. But it’s also her story. The fact that little happens from one chapter to the next isn’t the problem, it’s that the characters don’t have much invested in the outcome of one thing or another.

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The Miami Herald

Good
Reviewed by Connie Ogle on Jul 18 2014

Despite its post-apocalyptic setting, California is also a shrewd exploration of a marriage; Lepucki astutely charts the ebb and flow of Frida and Cal’s relationship, which doesn’t necessarily grow stronger in the face of their isolation.

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The Rumpus

Above average
Reviewed by LIZ WYCKOFF on Jul 29 2014

Much of its appeal resides in its ability to surprise. It is slightly unfortunate that, dependent on its structure, many secrets are revealed through dialogue rather than out-and-out action. But there’s enough suspenseful drama in the last fifty pages of the book to make up for its relatively quiet beginning.

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Entertainment Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Madison Vain on Aug 01 2014

Lepucki is a good storyteller. The cadence and pacing of her words and plot is entertaining and easy to fall into. She is also, perhaps, not a great architect. Dystopian literature is well-traveled territory at this point, and hers could have been better fleshed out.

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Lit Reactor

Above average
Reviewed by RYAN PEVERLY on Jul 07 2014

Lepucki's writing is taut but also a little bland, yet her story is compelling enough to make up for it...If you want a story about personal relationships and the consequences of the choices we make with a frighteningly plausible dystopian landscape as a backdrop, pick up California.

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Crosswalk.com

Below average
Reviewed by Christa Banister on Jul 07 2014

Needless to say, a good idea can go bad in a hurry if the execution is off, and that’s exactly what happens with California. Sure, not every dystopian novel is going to be on par with, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but when something is as celebrated as California is, one can’t help hoping for more.

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Three Guys One Book

Good
Reviewed by Jason Rice on Jul 01 2014

Nothing is forever, not even the dictator at the center of this fantastic novel. I wish it were possible to get amnesia so I could read California again and again.

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Jewish Journal

Above average
Reviewed by Joe Mathews on Jul 15 2014

In its vision of the future, Lepucki’s novel California, while beautifully written, also feels dated. Her post-apocalyptic world of tomorrow seems driven by fears that come from the California of the 1970s and 1980s...

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Fantasy Book Review

Good
Reviewed by Michelle Herbert on Oct 03 2014

I found California a really interesting story with lots of twists and turns that never became boring. The characters are well constructed and although you may not empathise with some of the main characters you will understand the lengths people will go to protect their families as well as to simply survive.

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That's What She Read

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle on Jul 25 2014

Unfortunately, the hype is just too great right now for readers not to feel some disappointment upon finishing it. For, while it is a good story, it is not a terribly fantastic one as the buzz may lead readers to anticipate.

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Above average
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Jul 10 2014

I always thought there was something slightly more sinister around every corner, and what ended up being the truth didn’t exactly satisfy me. That being said, if you’re tired of the ridiculous lengths dystopian books seem to go to these days to shock readers, then California might be exactly the novel you’re seeking.

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Raging Biblioholism

Excellent
Reviewed by Drew on Jul 01 2014

A refreshing and even dare-I-say original take on the dystopic/post-apocalyptic genre. Except this apocalypse isn’t one major thing but rather the accumulated feedback of lots of things – which is how our own apocalypse might well look.

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Beth Fish Reads

Below average
Reviewed by Beth F on Aug 04 2014

Although California received high praise from a number of authors and reviewers, I didn't feel the love. Not only didn't I make an emotional connection to the characters but I didn't see that Lepucki added significantly to the genre.

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Leeswammes' Blog

Good
Reviewed by Leeswammes on Aug 09 2014

It was a less dark read than I expected (which is good) and I really enjoyed this novel a lot. A whole new view on a post-apocalyptic world.

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The Reading Date

Above average
Reviewed by Lucy on Aug 06 2014

If you are a fan of realistic post-apocalyptic books (or even the TV show LOST) you may enjoy reading California. Edan Lepucki writes an entertaining story and I kind of want to know what happens next.

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BookPeople's Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Juliewbp on Jun 05 2014

...so California stays true through its bittersweet ending. I was left wanting more, until I looked outside and remembered how close it comes to being so real.

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Niklas' Blog

Below average
on Aug 04 2014

I heard people talk of how the book was great at ending wonderfully. I don’t really think it did. Sadly, the best thing about this book, to me, is the cover. Otherwise: please read something else, like the mentioned books, or just don’t.

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http://great-imaginations.com

Below average
Reviewed by Kara on Aug 28 2014

...it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. But at best, this is an average dystopian that was very vague and didn’t deliver on its promises.

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ZYZZYVA. THE LAST WORD

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Berry on Jul 08 2014

Lepucki has the grace, wit, and sensitivity to make Frida and Cal’s predicament and its resolution wrenching and unforgettable, without any false heroics. It’s that emotional honesty that makes California stand so far out in a crowded field.

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Reader Rating for California
56%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 825 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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