cover image Namedropper


Emma Forrest. Touchstone Books, $12 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-684-86538-6

Viva Cohen, a self-proclaimed ""insecure teenage Jew,"" is the starstruck heroine of Forrest's zippy, pop-conscious debut. When Viva's mother decides to live a life of New Age ashram hopping, Viva is raised by Manny, her gay uncle in a North London flat coated with posters of Elizabeth Taylor. With Manny as her father figure, ""Liz"" as her matriarch, and her two best friends, Ray, a 33-year-old rock star, and Treena, a feckless bombshell, Viva, at 17, knits up her life with celluloid threads. She dresses up as Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer, and she's both lighthearted and cynical about love. The novel is a love story of sorts, but the objects of Viva's affection are in a constant state of teenage flux. In London, it's Ray, who's more big brother than romantic interest; in Edinburgh, it's Ray's opening act, Drew, an anorexic self-mutilator who shares Viva's love for Marilyn Monroe; and in Las Vegas it's Dillon, a misunderstood tweenie pop heartthrob. Eventually, she and Treena achieve their ambition of staying at the Chateau Marmont in L.A., but disillusion follows. Unlike the unnamed protagonist of contemporary Rebecca Ray's Pure (a fellow Brit, Forrest, at 22, is just two years older than Ray), Viva remains refreshingly chaste. Losing her virginity, Viva believes, is simply too complicated without the correct camera angle or the prospect of a second take. Her would-be silver screen life is as exasperating as it is self-aware. Although Viva's teenage angst and pop obsessions may grate on the nerves of anyone over 30, Forrest deftly juggles her heroine's adolescent fantasies into an entertaining novel. (Aug.)