Innocence

Innocence

4.2 26
by Jane Mendelsohn
     
 

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In her electrifying follow-up to the acclaimed bestseller, I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn delivers a modern gothic coming-of-age story, a devastating X-ray of American culture, and a piercing, playful, and poetic exploration of the inner life of a teenage girl growing up in New York City.

Author Biography: Jane Mendelsohn's first novel, I Was Amelia

Overview

In her electrifying follow-up to the acclaimed bestseller, I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn delivers a modern gothic coming-of-age story, a devastating X-ray of American culture, and a piercing, playful, and poetic exploration of the inner life of a teenage girl growing up in New York City.

Author Biography: Jane Mendelsohn's first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, spent fourteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was published in fifteen languages.

Editorial Reviews

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Bookseller Reviews

A strong novel by author of I Am Amelia Earhart. Though only fourteen years-old, Becket leads a life that most would daunt most adults. Living with her widowed father in New York City, she sees herself perpetually on the edge of the world she surveys; an outsider peering in at cynical teachers and the in-crowd Beautiful Girls. Drawn to an omnipotent school nurse in a way she can't quite understand, Becket cobbles together a flickering social circle characterized more by shared alienation than by common interests. Uncertain, yet self-contained, she moves from little nightmare to little nightmare without setting off adult sirens. Teens know this toughness.

Mendelsohn's first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, the famous aviatrix crashed on a desert isle, fell in love with her navigator and experienced the salvation of human love. In her newest book, Mendelsohn explores another kind of crack up. This sad, disturbing tale of lost mental control revolves around a teen-ager nicknamed Beckett, who experiences "coming of age" as if she's inside a horror film. Beckett purports to offer insight into a generation of teen-agers destroyed by fantasy, fiction and movies while decrying a country that does not defend its children. The book seethes with boredom, narcissism and violence: the psychiatrist gets stabbed in the eye, the stepmother in the heart. One wonders how an author of such breathtaking talent could release a novel that is, by turns, bloody, tedious, tortuous, confusing, disturbing and overwritten.
—Ethel Hammer
Library Journal
Adolescence is a tough time for most people, and it is especially hard for 14-year-old Beckett, whose mother was killed in a drunk-driving accident in the suburbs. After the accident, her father, Miles, decides to move to an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, enrolling Beckett in an exclusive private school. Strange things are happening at this school--several girls have formed suicide pacts, and three girls kill themselves shortly after Beckett begins school. It is through these events that Beckett meets Pam, the school nurse, who begins dating Miles and eventually becomes Beckett's new stepmother. Part modern Gothic, the novel flows along in a stream-of-consciousness narrative that reveals Beckett's inner turmoil. We also learn that all is not as it seems with Pam and the strange events at school. The book offers an interesting spin on the traditional coming-of-age story as it keeps the reader wondering, Is this fantasy or is this reality? Suitable for adults, this second novel by the author of I Was Amelia Earhart might also appeal to a mature young adult reader. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.]--Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Gia Kourlas
Mendelsohn's story makes for a wild ride. And lest you think it's entirely silly, Innocence comes with a message: Beckett decides that it just might be better to be pretty on the inside after all.,br>—Time Out New York
Janet Steen
A surprisingly unique mystery novel. Told in spare, melodramatic vignettes, the book has elements of both an epic poem and a horror-film screenplay...
Time Out New York
Kirkus Reviews
Growing up in Manhattan can be hell, especially if you're the haunted heroine of this scary, tricky neo-gothic thriller. It's bad enough that Rebecca Warner's mother was killed by a drunk driver. But when her father decided to move back to the city with his daughter, he promptly fell for Pamela Reeve, Beckett's school nurse, and now everything is one long nightmare. Or rather a series of short, MTV-style nightmares in which the murders of three new school friends are indistinguishable from the onset of Beckett's first period, and the melted chocolate ice cream in the family freezer just might be frozen blood. Is Beckett hallucinating because her imagination has been sent spiraling into overdrive by the pills Pamela is constantly popping into her? Or is Pamela really a vampire whose life depends on a diet of virgins' menstrual blood? Is Beckett's waking nightmare, which she keeps plangently insisting is true, a train of once-in-a-lifetime coincidences (on his way over to spend the night with her, and perhaps save her life by deflowering her, her boyfriend Tobey is beaten so savagely in a restroom that he sinks into a coma)—or the result of a fiendish conspiracy between her father, her stepmother, and her psychiatrist—or an anthology of metaphors for a normal American coming-of-age in the infant century? Invoking a battery of analogues favoring the pop-culture heroines of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Lolita, and Halloween, Mendelsohn (I Was Amelia Earhart, 1996) isolates her plucky heroine so fearfully via sparse paragraphs and an underpeopled world that even the most preposterous threats leap out of the movie frame tofuel ashriek of pure paranoia. Must reading for anybody who thinks teenagers today have gotten bloated with entitlement: a scarlet will-o'-the-wisp fantasy in which adults and adulthood aren't stupid stiffs but agents of unimaginable evil. Author tour

From the Publisher
“Innocence is a kind of Rosemary's Baby channeled through J.D. Salinger.” —Dennis Cooper, Village Voice

“Remarkable…A truly thrilling read.” —Newsday

“Borrowing classic ingredients from the genres of horror films and popular literature, Mendelsohn has concocted a coming-of-age tale about a Manhattan girl’s adolescence; this is a story of innocence, all right, but that nebulous concept today means finding your way in a media-saturated, sometimes dangerous culture.” —Boston Sunday Globe

“It's a graceful, delusionary teenage thriller unusually in touch with young characters' emotional workings, and, at the same time, a book by someone who clearly understands the tricks that make Stephen King's pages turn. In the novel, a teenaged girl named Beckett witnesses or imagines a series of murders and grows increasingly convinced that reality masks a demonic conspiracy by the adult world to destroy her innocence and corrupt everyone she trusts.” —Dennis Cooper, Village Voice

“Mendelohn is a smart, clever writer who has created a…novel that rivets with well-paced scenes, lyrical prose, and moments of profound insight. By playing with the worst stereotypes about women and giving eloquent nod to her cinematic forebears, Mendelsohn gives voice and image to a new generation’s female howl.” —The Providence Sunday Journal

“This dark and gothically twisted novel from the author of I Was Amelia Earhart gives us the city as a wicked stepmother’s poisonous fruit, its beauty baneful, its sweetness deadly…Mendelsohn’s genius lies in her ability to keep both the fantastical and the ordinary in focus at the same time…a brilliant balancing act.” —Newsday

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573221641
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
08/09/2000
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.65(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.88(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
They were all dead. I was the only one left.
They'd done something awful with a pink plastic razor, two of them on the bed and one on the floor. The music was still lapping on the player. I think I mouthed the words.
Outside, it was one of those sunsets that nobody looks at, a red and orange and purple massacre, spilling its guts out above the city.
I don't understand why nobody notices. Those sunsets, they bleed all over.
I ran. I ran as fast as I could through the park as the sun set. First the sky turned gray, like smudged newsprint-there seemed to be words up there-and then it all faded to blue. The leaves on the trees went from green to purple. The street lamps turned on. As I ran out of the park behind the museum, night fell. I could hear it. Everything became quieter. The cabs stopped honking and slid by with their secret passengers. Lights arrived in the buildings like stars. Traffic moved in one wave downtown. It was Friday night. The sky went black as a limousine.
Why was I running? I was running from images: a sneaker, a mirror, two words. I remember blood hanging in strings off the bottom of a shoe like gum. I remember two words scrawled across a mirror.
Two words: drink me.
I ran. I ran past the front of the museum where the fountains glowed green from their swimming-pool lights. On the steps of the museum, a group of kids. I ran across fifth avenue. A bus pulled by and stopped, and heaved like an old accordion. I turned onto a street and then down park avenue through the dark canyon of buildings. Behind me I felt the presence of someone, something, but I knew I couldn't turn around or stop. That's when it started raining. I let the rain drip through my hair and down the ends of it, onto my shirt. My sneakers filled with water. It was raining so hard I could have missed the building, but I stopped out of instinct. At first, the doorman didn't want to let me up without buzzing. But I flirted a little. I let him stare at my shirt.
Upstairs, outside the elevator, I dug my fingers into the dirt of the plant. I found the key. I slipped into the apartment. I could tell by the quiet that Tobey's parents were out, and I followed the sound of the television to his room. He was watching an old movie. Voices crying across time. I followed the blue light.
The blue light cast a glow over his sleeping face. Raindrops slid down the walls like tears. I looked at him, at his innocent face. He must have felt my presence, my fear. He woke up.
Beckett, he said with his eyes, what are you doing here?
I took off my t-shirt. I dropped it on the floor.
Then I said: fuck me.

2
How can I get you to believe me, to believe the unbelievable? I want so much for you to understand. But you can't make someone believe you. Trust is a secret combination to a lock. Two turns of faith, one turn of fantasy, half a turn of truth. Trust me. It sounds so false.
What if I tell you that I'm still running? I'm running and remembering. Branches cut my legs, wet leaves stick to my clothes, and memories tangle in my hair. I'm running through a park, and then a city, and then a building. I hear strange languages, words of despair. The things I see along the way frighten me, but I can't look away.
Persephone, Dorothy, Lolita, the final girl, all went down to hell. Persephone, Dorothy, Lolita, the final girl: I'm following you. Wait for me.

3 Great heroines have dead mothers. That's what I told myself when she died. After she died (highway, drunk driver), my father decided that we should move back to the city. He took an apartment on the upper west side and enrolled me in a fancy school. I remember the first day, my terror.
I was scared when I walked into the cafeteria, the talking, the groups of friends. I walked into the cafeteria and saw them, mermaids washed up on shore. I saw the girls in their wide-legged jeans, the thin strings around their wrists, and I felt frightened. Their hair swung down like rope. I watched the boys sharing headphones; I studied their glances, the t-shirts covered with writing, their eyelashes, the muscles on their arms.
There I am, sitting alone. I'm the ugly girl, the smart girl, the boyish girl, the loser. I'm the one who knows too much.
I sat listening while I stared intently at my lunch. I was listening to the beautiful girls. Their names were Sunday, Morgan, and Myrrh. Every now and then I looked up through my stringy hair and watched them talking. Nobody looked at me.
You know that girl I was talking about? Sunday said.
Yeah, just a minute ago?
Yeah. Well, apparently, when she went down on him she forgot that she was chewing gum.
You're kidding.
No, I'm not.
That's hysterical.
It was a total mess.
The mermaids laughed in catty euphoria. The thunder of the lunchroom rose up behind them.
I'd like to tell you that I was better than they were, that they were dead souls, lost girls, superficial. But I wanted nothing more than to be like them. I wanted hair that swung down like rope.
This is what's happening: I'm running away. Away from these memories, away from myself. But the faster I run, the faster they follow me, until they're ahead of me and I'm running into them. I run into them like a girl stepping inside the movie screen. I run into them, and my world turns from black-and-white to color.
I run straight inside my eye. It's ten feet tall.
He walked into the cafeteria with his hands in his pockets and the strap of his bag across the front of his chest like a sash. The cafeteria was noisy and the tables were full and the women behind the food counter were wearing hair nets and bending over and scooping tuna fish out with ice cream scoops. He stood on line, accepted what they offered, and then walked slowly in my direction to the table with the beautiful girls. He laid down his tray and nodded and lifted the strap over his head and set his bag down gently on a seat. He sat down and put his elbows on the table and leaned forward and smiled with his eyes.
Sunday stuck out her arm in front of his face.
Smell my perfume. Isn't it amazing?
Yeah, amazing. He took a swig of soda.
Who's your friend?
Sunday shook her hair out behind her and pulled her knees up to rest against the table.
Why don't you find out? She said.
He took a bite of food and a long sip of soda.
You guys are friendly, he said. Then, showing them how it's done: I'm Tobey. What's your name?
I lifted my eyes. My face went hot, a stick of cartoon dynamite exploding inside my head.
Beckett.
I heard the girls laugh under their breath.
Hi, Beckett. This is Sunday, Morgan, and Myrrh.
The three girls glanced at me, nodded, and glanced away. He was enjoying playing the adult.
Where you from? What school?
You wouldn't know it, it's far away.
He waited for more. Long island. Way out on the North Fork.
He nodded and took another mouthful of food. Sunday squirmed in her seat and lowered her eyelids. Myrrh was wearing a wool cap and a tank top with her bra straps showing, and she stood up and walked over behind Sunday and started playing with Sunday's hair.
I took a deep breath.
Myrrh, I said. That's a cool name. How did you get it?
Parents were hippies.
Used to be.
Now they just buy a lot of CDs.
Sunday shook her hair.
Wow, Tobey said. What insight. You guys are so ironic and self-aware.
Oh, please, said Morgan.
I have to go, said myrrh.
Sunday left without saying anything.
Oh, well, he said. I guess it's just us.
I could have watched the smooth human machinery of his hands all day. But I picked up my tray and my book bag and left.

4
There's a character in every horror movie who doesn't die. She's the survivor, the Final Girl. She's the one who finds the bodies of her friends and understands that she is in danger. She is the one who runs and suffers. She is the one who shrieks and falls. Her friends understand what is happening to them for no more than an instant before they are killed. But the final girl knows for hours, maybe days, that she is going to die. She feels death coming. She hears it. She sees it.
Welcome to my nightmare.

Reprinted from Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn by permission of Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Jane Mendelsohn. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Innocence is a kind of Rosemary's Baby channeled through J.D. Salinger.” —Dennis Cooper, Village Voice

“Remarkable…A truly thrilling read.” —Newsday

“Borrowing classic ingredients from the genres of horror films and popular literature, Mendelsohn has concocted a coming-of-age tale about a Manhattan girl’s adolescence; this is a story of innocence, all right, but that nebulous concept today means finding your way in a media-saturated, sometimes dangerous culture.” —Boston Sunday Globe

“It's a graceful, delusionary teenage thriller unusually in touch with young characters' emotional workings, and, at the same time, a book by someone who clearly understands the tricks that make Stephen King's pages turn. In the novel, a teenaged girl named Beckett witnesses or imagines a series of murders and grows increasingly convinced that reality masks a demonic conspiracy by the adult world to destroy her innocence and corrupt everyone she trusts.” —Dennis Cooper, Village Voice

“Mendelohn is a smart, clever writer who has created a…novel that rivets with well-paced scenes, lyrical prose, and moments of profound insight. By playing with the worst stereotypes about women and giving eloquent nod to her cinematic forebears, Mendelsohn gives voice and image to a new generation’s female howl.” —The Providence Sunday Journal

“This dark and gothically twisted novel from the author of I Was Amelia Earhart gives us the city as a wicked stepmother’s poisonous fruit, its beauty baneful, its sweetness deadly…Mendelsohn’s genius lies in her ability to keep both the fantastical and the ordinary in focus at the same time…a brilliant balancing act.” —Newsday

Meet the Author

Jane Mendelsohn's first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, spent fourteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was published in fifteen languages.

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Innocence 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book in a bargain bin at a Book Warehouse and read it in one day. Wow...The sentences read like poetry, but I think most important is that this author really nailed her subject matter. Not only is it truthful but also suspenseful...a great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazed by the way this book was written.All the short,but descriptive, sentences.I thought the emotional stress the main character goes through is strongly expressed.This is one of my favourite books now,it's one of the few books I've read that can bring me into the book and feel every thing the book is about.I love the dreamy way Mendelsohn writes.
Sav77 More than 1 year ago
This book is not written very well. With out quotation marks it is hard to tell when characters are actually speaking. Doesn't get interesting until the end. It is a very quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing! At first I thought it was confusing, but then it all came together. It was beautifully written and I fell in love not knowing where reality stopped and where imagination started. The way I was guessing until the very last page made me rip through the book. Even though I am only in middle school I thought that this was one of the most brilliant, if not most disturbing book I have ever read. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a thrill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tayriley More than 1 year ago
this strange and gothicky novel is a quick read- so quick you may not be sure of what happened at its end. the prose is more like poetry in its dreaminess, and yet the narrator is so blatantly straight forward in her emotions- not unlike reading sylvia plath's journals or fiction. i clutched this coming of age tale to my chest in high school (when it was first published)...and to this day still remember how much i loved reading it. this is not for people who like super-defined stories or clarity. reading this is more like weaving into a dream. detached yet still with the ability to be horrifying, i feel like there is nothing i've read that is like it. it is too bad that mendelsohn got bad reviews from the type of readers/critics that expect a certain type of writing and story framing. this is probably why she hasn't published anything since. all i can say is, as a lost teen, i loved every moment of it.
teri_marie More than 1 year ago
My cousin recommended this book to me. I couldn't put it down. I read it in one night. It was so good.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing i have now read it for the 12th time. i can never seem to put it down. the first time i read it i got confused so had to read it again ,and now i am completely enthrtalled within it. mendelsohns' use of real life situations helps the reader become more involved . i would recommend this book to anyone . if you dont like the boring old english books you have to read for class you will love this. it will take you on the ride of your life with its unexpected turns
Guest More than 1 year ago
i've read a lot of books, and this was one of my favourite ones. i loved this book, and i encourage many people to do so aswell. picked up on a whim and because i was running out of time, i found this at a library. i read it that same afternoon, and was upset that it was over (i wan't upset with the ending though ^.^), upset because i'd read it so quickly (a bad habit of mine. i like to savour the words, so i'm trying to leran how to 'pace' myself during reading) please, you don't have to buy it, but at least read it once.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this book after seeing a lot of other reviewers review. They were very mixed. I shouldn't of wasted my time. The book was a fast, but terrible read. With so much decent literature out there...Don't Waste Your Time On This Book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book is great, because it was fast paced. it pulled me in from the first page.Even if you dont like reading like me, you'll love this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It wasn't like anything I've read before and I couldnt stop reaidng it once I started. It wasn't real long which was nice but it was still really good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was really good to read. the writer was so descriptive...its makes u believe she was a teenager who an autobiographical story. i could totally relate to how beckett, the main character feels and think. it makes u wanna read it and find out whats gonna happen next. shes a girl maturing into a womnen, but has to face some challenges along the way. its action packed, dramatized, and more!!!! u should definitely check it out!!!!!!!! plus.. its not that long.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mendelsohn's writing style is stunning, she elicits such beauty while exposing such darkness. I have read both her books and I, as a lover of writing, am so impressed by her unique style which is at times breath-taking. Her words are illustrious.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a word, pretentious. On the upside, it's a quick read to knock off in an afternoon. On the downside, it's a waste of two hours.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I chose this particular book at random this summer but nothing about the book itself is random. I am a psuedo-writer myself and I am deeply impressed with Jane Mendelsohns' prose style of writing. Her words stimulate the imagination forcing the reader to continue reading. The author has a rare talent of allowing her readers to empathize with the characters in this book. It is a true testament of what most young girls feel and think at that age. Bravo. I would definitely recommend this book to others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just randomly picked up this book at the bookstore and when I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It was so rich with imagery and symbolism that I was amazed that one person could think of such a story. It appears to be a simple storyline- a teenage girl struggling with becoming a woman, dealing with the typical issues of the in crowd, being pretty, and boys- but the view that Beckett has on the world is one that every teenage girl has had but have never spoken of. Truly this book demonstrated the end of innocence in a real, twisted way. There are a few things I don't quite understand, for example, if the bats in the book are supposed to be symbolic of something in society. Anyone who would like to talk about this book feel free to email. Anyone who has not read this book should read it and be ready for a wild and truthful ride.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had seen this book on a trip to Barnes and Nobles with a friend of mine. It was out then only in hard-back, but I waited and had it special ordered for myself at a bookstore at which I work. I began reading it the night I recieved it and I simply couldn't put it down. I found myself relating a lot to Beckette and her struggles to understand and fit in with our culture. There's a lot of things she was right in thinking and fearing. In the end she found herself. She found that there is peace within even after such horrors she survived.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm usually an Oprah book kinda gal, but I'm a teen so I saw this book and ordered it from my book club. Yes, it hooks you from page one, but it was just too strange. Hint: Vampires. It is a dreamy, gothic, modern novel. Some people may love it, but it just wasn't for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After the first few minutes of this book, you immedialty get addicted. It is such an insight to the teenage world of horror, yet so originol. Fabulous.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first saw the cover of Innocence I thought that I would be an interesting story of a girl living on the upper west side of Manhattan. But reading it, I see a girl trying to come of age while trying to understand the world around her that involves teen suicide, step parents, withcraft and the internet. The character Beckett holds on quiet well but she gives the reader an idea that she will be forever in a world of up-and-down mood swings and on-again off-again downward spirals.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had never read a book in less than three days before. Behold... INNOCENCE. This eerie coming-of-age novel expressed the hidden turmoils of an adolescent teenage girl and her struggle to vie with a mainstream teenage life. Mendelsohn sucessfully entwines spooky vignettes and dark humor into her web of somewhat superficial adolescent concerns - gratuitous sex, drug use, and fitting in at the cool table at lunch. Teenagers and adults alike - buy this book and you won't be disappointed... hey... finishing a book in three days is quite a fete for me, at least.