"Denis tackles life, death, happiness, time, genetics, and consciousness in this smart, funny novel. Alma-Jane, an 11-year-old New Yorker, is doomed to die because of the genetic mutation that also resulted in her heretofore-unseen perfect Genetic Happiness score. Her brilliant 14-year-old brother, Ayrton, wants to save her. So does Raduska Smith, an old woman with a GH score of zero. From there, the novel sprawls out wildly, introducing Alma-Jane’s synesthete friend Alejandro, who thinks minds are made up of “little brain people”; Laszlo, a game designer with a piece of Einstein’s brain in a jar; Mighty-11, a mouse genetically engineered to be fearless; and immortal beings including Pablo Neruda, Scrabble inventor Alfred Butts, the cake-baking Death, and his brother OM (Obituary Man).

The Last Day of Paradise

- Kiki Denis' debut novel, "The Last Day of Paradise," is a family saga that highlights the magic of language and the cycle of generations. Sunday, 15, abruptly discovers that her "baba" may not be her biological father. She narrates the events that led to her birth in a small Greek town and takes the reader back in time to understand her present situation. The story unfolds as Sunday zips blithely from one end of the timeline to the other - from the bawdiness of ancient times to the raw sexual nonchalance of today's youth - although she sometimes gets ahead of her storytelling.

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