Girl Walking Backwards

Bett Williams, Author St. Martin's Griffin $14.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-312-19456-7
Williams confronts coming-of-age angst in this dry, often angry debut about a 16-year-old lesbian who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., with her skittish mother, a spaced-out New Age divorcee on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Despite her parents' rocky breakup, Skye's world has managed to hang together, if precariously. She volunteers to work for Planned Parenthood because ""it was the only organization that really dealt with teenagers' right to privacy."" Soon she becomes infatuated with Jessica, a sullen, dark-haired girl she meets in a neighborhood cyber-cafe. The one thing Skye's mother is not receptive to is her daughter's lesbianism, and clashes are inevitable when Jessica introduces Skye to a world of raves, drugs and casual sexual encounters. When Jessica has a breakdown of her own, Skye realizes that avoiding reality has its price and begins to come to terms with the key actors in her life: her mother, who wants to ""heal"" her but ends up in the hospital herself; her well-intentioned but absent father, who is an independent filmmaker in L.A.; her ""boyfriend"" Riley; Jessica's friend Mol, an exuberant, self-titled Pagan; and Lorri, a volleyball teammate who turns out to be more than just another straitlaced jock. Williams writes in clipped, unemotional prose, underscoring the theme that innocence is hard to find but that naivete is rampant (especially among adults). Somehow in this chaotic and self-indulgent California terrain, her wounded young protagonist emerges as the most reasonable voice of all. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/14/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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