Coming-of-age novels are usually boring and self-important, and most of them are just ripoffs of "Catcher in the Rye."
But that isn't the case with Emma Forrest's razor-sharp, bittersweet "Namedropper." Instead, Forrest writes of a smart young woman encountering first love, world travel and friendships. And she does it with such world-weary wit that every page sparkles.
"He was a super-shiny boy and I liked the shape of him." This dream introduces us to Viva Cohen, a teenage Londoner who lives with her gay uncle, flunking high school. Her only friends are insecure rocker Ray and sexy wild-child Teena, and her thoughts are full of acerbic insights about the people around her.
But as sophisticated as she is, Viva is captivated one night when she glimpses fragile musician Drew, who is wrapped up in his own morbid world. When he apparently commits suicide, Viva tries to escape her grief by going on tour with Ray, only to find that Teena and Ray's relationship has become something more -- which excludes her.
Not many first novels are as well-written as "Namedropper" -- and definitely not when they have a jaded romantic teen as the narrator. Most characters in that mold are just insufferable twits. So it's a credit to Forrest's writing that she can create a book like this -- an eccentric teenager's summer -- and make it seem so wonderfully realistic.
Forrest has that rare knack for summing up a place, a feeling or a character in one insightful sentence ("She's not interested in the politics and mechanics of love and peace, just the enamel-plated peace-sign ankle chain"). And at a moment's notice, she can switch on the poetic prose ("... let the soil consume him and fall into his mouth") and change the whole mood. Sights, sounds, smells and quirks are sprinkled all over each page.
And what of Viva herself? She's the most intriguing character of all, a mixture of youthful naivete and sophisticated intelligence. Her tastes and insights are light-years ahead of the people around her. Yet this mature girl can still fancy herself in love with pretty, suicidal rock stars.
Emma Forrest takes readers into the fast-changing life of a young "Namedropper," with zesty writing and bittersweet wit. This is a truly scintillating debut, and definitely not to be missed.
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Touchstone Books; Scribner PB Fic edition (15 August 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684865386
- ISBN-13: 978-0684865386
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 259 g
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