Thrills and dread abound in Emma Cline’s The Guest, the unnerving beach read of the year. Set in an unnamed, affluent community on Long Island (read: the Hamptons), it follows the misadventures of Alex, a clever but self-destructive grifter, who, after being kicked out of her wealthy older lover’s vacation home, uses her street smarts to survive a harrowing week by leeching off the unassuming ultra-rich around her. From bunking in a fratty house share to passing as a member of the local beach club, Alex is a master of deception and an agent of chaos, pulling through at the expense of those around her, no matter the cost. —Cady Lang
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