Serious Girls
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Serious Girls

by Maxine Swann
     
 

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Sixteen year olds Maya and Roe form an intense friendship when they find themselves cast as outsiders at an all girls boarding school. Sharing their life stories, and curiosity about the adult world, they wonder how they might become "people" with style and character as opposed to school girls. When they move beyond the enclosed world of the school to experience

Overview

Sixteen year olds Maya and Roe form an intense friendship when they find themselves cast as outsiders at an all girls boarding school. Sharing their life stories, and curiosity about the adult world, they wonder how they might become "people" with style and character as opposed to school girls. When they move beyond the enclosed world of the school to experience the city, and relationships with men, both girls test the line between an emerging sense of self and its total disintegration.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Like Virginia Wolf or Doris Lessing, Swann has a sharp ear for young women's inner dialogues....Her spare prose (save for a smattering of lovely similes) and straightforward plot are interrupted, wonderfully by telling insights.” —Alizah Salario, Ms. Magazine
VOYA
Swann's novel touts itself as a story about growing up and becoming a woman. Her flowery writing style gets in the way of overall themes and mars development. It seems that Serious Girls paints an unrealistic picture of adolescence. VOYA Codes 2Q 3P J S A/YA (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Picador/St. Martin's Press, 256p., Ages 12 to Adult.
—Theodora Ranelli, Teen Reviewer
Library Journal
After being sent to boarding school by her grandmother, Maya and new friend Roe experiment with clothing, venture into New York on their own, and have their first sexual relationships. They're hoping to gain the experience that will transform them into distinct, memorable individuals, but the results are not what they had expected. Similar to Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea in its floral imagery and exploration of the imbalance of power between the sexes, this novel offers observations about the balancing act of adolescent growth and descriptions of surrounding scenery that are quite deft and lovely. However, Swann's first novel does not dare to go far enough in its exploration of teenage girls' expeditions into adult life and their recuperation from the mistakes made, along the way. It is too mild-mannered, and the characters are distant. As Roe says, "What I want right now is to feel alive, the whole way through." This book has glimmers of life, but not the whole way through; its strength lies in description, not characterization. Recommended for large public libraries where there is an interest in literary fiction.-Amy Ford, Charles Cty. P.L., Waldorf, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With sensitivity and quiet wit, O. Henry Award-winner Swann delineates the turmoil of adolescence. Maya and Roe are both misfits at their posh boarding school in the suburbs of New York City. Roe is a scholarship student from the South, raised by her strict military father after a car hit and killed her mother. Maya, whose tuition is being paid by her wealthy, dissolute grandmother, grew up in rural isolation with an unmarried mother who rejected her privileged background. The 16-year-olds bond over their passion for books-Roe loves Russian novels; Maya's favorite is Jane Eyre-and their alienation from the other girls: "They're like a spectacle we're watching. We only want to spend time among ourselves." First-novelist Swann captures with marvelous clarity the sense young adults have of waiting for "life" to begin, of searching for clues as to who they might be. Roe and Maya buy clothes in thrift shops, trying on outfits the way they try on identities. They spend Saturdays in Manhattan, intoxicated by a city in which "the gap between desire and action narrows and, at certain moments, simply falls away." A highly alcoholic Christmas with Maya's grandmother, the book's funniest, scariest section, suggests that living wholly by desire's imperatives may not be such a good idea. But both girls rush toward experience anyway, seeking to overcome their anxieties. Narrator Maya, who confesses to being scared of people, embarks on a love affair with Arthur, a 32-year-old art writer. Roe, whose deepest fear is "that something will happen . . . an accident or tragedy of some kind," gets involved with Jesse, a troubled local boy who beats her up. Summer vacations with their respective men are equalthough different disasters (not quite as sharply conceived as the scenes that precede them) from which the girls emerge slightly battered but stronger. "Life, we've agreed, has definitely started." Wonderfully perceptive and precise about an age that's too often portrayed in vague generalities.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312288013
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
12/01/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.54(d)

Meet the Author

Mazime Swann's short story "Flower Children" won the Cohen Award, The O. Henry Award, the Pushcart Prize and was included in The Best American Short Stories. Serious Girls is her first novel.

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