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Since Don Quixote, the essential subject of the novel has been geography: what is out there, who lives there, how they are different from characters who live in other landscapes. Themes are always particular to place; style, too, derives its piquancy from dialect and locale. Three new novels extend this tradition, but they are as remarkably different from one another as the landscapes they explore.

The Good Kids of Benjamin Nugent’s debut (Scribner, $23, simonandschuster.com) are never not aware of their self-consciously counterculture environment, a liberal college town in Massachusetts where on Language Day at the high school, Josh, who takes Russian, sells borscht a few feet from where Khadijah (who owes her first name to her mother’s “Sufi years”) sells mousse (she studies French). After the festival the kids go to the ethnic-grocery store, Gaia, and witness their parents Linus and Nancy kissing in the candy aisle. This revelation is soon followed by two divorces (“People don’t hold it against you if you get divorced in Wattsbury”). The unexpected connection at first gives Josh and Khadijah a sense of fellowship and then pulls them apart after Nancy and her husband break up.

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