When Sara's hippie father catches her masturbating after school, he can't handle what he's witnessed. In one of this whip-smart debut's many surreal scenes, he decides to move out effective immediately. Godfrey's novel is full of equally disconcerting episodes, but its brash honesty gives them a giddily delightful spin. The departure of 16-year-old Sara's single father leaves her to fend for herself, and she quickly heads down the wrong path in mid-'80s Victoria, British Columbia. An obsession with Justine, a strangely alluring street girl, leads her into the red-light district, where she meets China, a teenage prostitute who persuades Sara to help her rob a john. As the new friends flee the crime scene, the deceived man threatens Sara, vowing to get revenge. Sure enough, just as she finally finds Justine again, she is accosted by the man, and Justine nearly kills him with a knife belonging to Sara. Though the book is a hell-ride through the lives of burned-out teens killing time in homeless shelters and drug houses, the scenery is transformed by Godfrey's angry cleverness: one character is "like the rising rowdy moment of a party just before the cops arrive and send everyone home." Though secondary figures like Sara's father and China don't get the thorough treatment Godfrey gives Sara, Godfrey's singular voice is a perfect barometer of teenage rage and insecurity. (Oct. 15) Forecast: A great cover shot of a girl in a short skirt with a bruised knee gets exactly the right message across. This is a potential teen cult hit and should do particularly well on the West Coast, where Godfrey will tour. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In a town where the teen girls "have flipped back Farrah Fawcett hair and willing-to-please eyes shadowed in baby blue," Sara already stands out in her "little shredded dress and desecrated eyes." Her mother abandoned her for a promiscuous commune life and her father is wasted from years of smoking dope, so Sara has always been on her own. Now, at age sixteen, her life is even more tumultuous: Her hippie father catches her masturbating in the garden; her dope-smoking pals show no remorse for a gang rape; the fever she was born with mysteriously returns; and Justine, the object of Sara's obsession, remains elusive. Sara's determined search for Justine leads her to homeless shelters, youth detention centers, party houses, and finally, jail for attempted murder. Drugs, sex, prostitution, and abandonment filter into Sara's world as she follows Justine's trail. This surreal, disconcerting novel benefits from several readings. Sara's narrative of her environment is both dreamlike and dead-on with observations about modern teen angst. Comparisons to Go Ask Alice (Avon, 1971), mentioned by Sara, are inevitable, but Godfrey's novel is more sophisticated and mesmerizing. The reader is never certain whether the events are actually happening or if Sara's imagination has taken control. As Sara moves into the grittier, seamier areas of Victoria, British Columbia, she shows a rage and attitude that will resonate with older young adults. This challenging novel is not for the timid; language and situations are not sugarcoated. The cover art is striking, promising what the novel delivers-an unflinching look at the teenage underworld. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Perennial/HarperCollins, 199p,
In this gritty, bittersweet first novel, 16-year-old narrator Sara is a small pebble in the storm-tossed sea of her adolescence. Raised on a hippie commune, she is left to her own devices when her father quits for the woods to lead a simpler life (her mother stays behind at the commune). Shortly after his departure, the fever that enveloped Sara at birth returns with a vengeance, and she begins her search for refuge, beauty, and a level of honesty. Although she finds relative comfort with the "burnout boys," classmates who smoke marijuana in the fields behind the high school, she's not satisfied. Her curiosity propels her to venture into Victoria, British Columbia's enticing mid-1980s underworld, where she meets a group of colorful, worldly, and energetic adolescents in alleys, strange rooms, and diners. One of them is the torn skirt-wearing Justine, who mesmerizes Sara. Even though Justine slips in and out of Sara's periphery, Sara continues to look for her, thinking of her as an alter ego. As she resists boredom and conformity, Sara acquires self-confidence, a few rough edges, and her own distinctive voice. Godfrey's style is simple, believable, and pared to the bone. At a moderate price, this debut is highly recommended for medium-sized and larger public libraries.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. P.L., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-As a teen in the mid-'80s in British Columbia, Sara Shaw has two lives. At home, she is the responsible daughter who cleans, launders, and manages the bills for her feckless, addicted father. At school, aptly nicknamed "Mount Drug," she hangs out with a group of stoned delinquents. When her father suddenly abandons her, she leaves home for the back alleys of Victoria where she is swept into the world of runaways, pimps, prostitutes, and addicts. Despite the graphic sexual situations and language, this is a touching book about a sensitive, articulate teen who longs for security while recklessly courting danger. She misses her mother who still lives in the commune Sara and her father had left. She regrets not befriending a girl at her school, and tries to compensate by helping the young women she meets on the streets and in a shelter. She imagines life with the kind foster family she is offered, but can't make herself leave the streets and go to them. This first novel is suspenseful, surprisingly funny, and thought provoking. Godfrey's portrayal of the anguish and hope of troubled teens has a searing authenticity.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Teenage angst gets a surprisingly honest and effective rendering from a bright new voice.
Born with a raging fever and raised in a frightening, Manson-esque (without the murder) commune on the West Coast, Sara Shaw is a girl just trying to make it through her small-town high school. Her father’s a decent sort, benign and useless in a hippie sort of way, and at least he leaves her alone. Sara hangs with the burnout guys at school but doesn’t feel exactly fulfilled by their established rebellion, knowing that no matter how much Led Zeppelin they listen to or dope they smoke, none of them has any ambitions beyond their town. Sara becomes inexplicably obsessed with Justine, a furiously antisocial girl in the torn skirt of the title, and after randomly spotting and tailing her, gets caught up with a floating world of hookers and junkies who inhabit the town’s so-called "Red Zone." At this vulnerable stage, her father decides to take off for the woods as part of his quest to lead a simpler life, and Sara’s slide into FTW ("Fuck the World") behavior accelerates. School attendance quickly becomes a thing of the past, and before she knows it, she’s rooming with junkies and becoming fodder for cautionary tales. Launching into her narrative—"those twelve days when there was too much rain and I was burning and I found and lost Justine"—with seemingly no purpose, Godfrey offers few surprises in her story but constantly impresses with her precise eye and impassioned tone. This first-timer may not have opened new vistas of literature, but she brings this feverish girl fully to life on these rage-prone pages.
Giving witness yet again to the self-created drama of adolescence: a serious bullet of abook.