Madison Newbound

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
United Kingdom
2 July 2024


Madison Newbound

Elsa is struggling. Her formative, exhilarating relationship with an older couple has abruptly ended, leaving her depressed and directionless in her childhood bedroom. In the relationship's wake, Elsa scrolls aimlessly through the internet in search of meaning.

Faithfully, her screen provides a new obsession- a charismatic young actor whose latest feature is a gay love story that illuminates Elsa's crisis. And then, as if she had conjured him, the actor arrives in her hometown, with an entourage of fellow actors, writers, and directors, for the annual theatre festival. When she is hired at the one upscale restaurant in town, Elsa finds herself thrown into in contact with the actor and his circle.

But her obsession shifts from the actor to his frequent dinner companion an alluring, androgynous person called Sam. As this confusing connection develops, Elsa is forced to grapple with her sexuality, the uncomfortable truths about the end of her last relationship, and the patterns that may be playing out once again.

Unflinchingly sharp and funny, Misrecognition is an unforgettable debut novel about the internet, post-postmodern adulthood and queer identity.


Elsa has a problem with obsessions. She’s failing to recover from the abrupt breakup with the polyamorous couple she was dating. Then, after watching a romantic queer film set in Italy, Elsa falls in love with the lead actor, with his beauty and boyish youth. As if by magic, the actor arrives at her hometown for the annual theatre festival. Alongside the actor is his companion, Sam, an androgynous person who is both alluring and confusing to Elsa. Meanwhile, Elsa obsesses over a beauty guru on YouTube, hoping to emulate her skills and charm to win over the heart of whomever Elsa wishes to possess that day. Fluttering with excitement over the presence of the actor and his androgynous partner, yet drowning in the misery of not being with the polyamorous couple anymore, Elsa grapples with her sexuality.

Madison Newbound’s debut is a hilariously bizarre queer love story about desire, self-discovery, and learning to live without the answers for everything. It becomes clear very quickly that Elsa doesn’t give people names – the couple is simply referred to as ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’; the actor’s name is unknown (although he bears a striking similarity to Timothée Chalamet’s character in Call Me by Your Name); the beauty guru is also unnamed. Only Sam is named, reflecting that in their androgyny, Elsa is able to find a part of herself, a body that mirrors her desire for men, women and everything in between.

Misrecognition moves at a languid pace, conveying the passage of time. Yet within the ennui is the very real, detailed life of a woman, scrolling through social media, going to Sephora, daydreaming about her exes and crushes, and trying to find a sense of meaning somewhere in her life, which otherwise seems to be going nowhere.

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