Victoria Patterson, Author . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $12.95 (225p) ISBN 978-0-547-05494-0

Patterson illustrates how deceiving initial impressions can be in her dark debut, a collection of 13 interconnected stories. At first glance, the characters seem to be blessed, living in tony Newport Beach, Calif., but Patterson quickly scrapes off the glitter, examining the complicated lives of Rosie, a confused teenage girl; John Wayne, a brain-damaged, homeless stoner; Anne, a lesbian psychologist in love with Rosie's mother; Melody, a trophy wife cheating on her husband, Henry Wilson, who has a secret of his own; and Joe/Christina, a transvestite. The majority of the stories feature Rosie, a nerdy teenager whose attempts to make sense of her life lead her down increasingly self-destructive paths, though she remains touchingly aware of others' suffering. In “Winter Formal: A Night of Magic,” Rosie and a seemingly perfect blonde princess have a nightmare evening; in “The First and Second Time,” Rosie violently loses her virginity. Later, in “Joe/Christina,” Rosie, now an alcoholic community college student, finds an unlikely savior in the local transvestite. Patterson's unflinching account of the seedy side of a real-life Xanadu is frightening, immersive and wonderfully realized. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/27/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
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