cover image Girly


Elizabeth Merrick, . . Demimonde, $19.95 (510pp) ISBN 978-0-9768801-0-3

Set in a suburban Sacramento version of Joyce Carol Oates's wintry upstate New York, Merrick's debut novel is harsh and complex. Racinda Hart's lifestory is told by seven separate narrative voices. Her absentminded, Jesus-freak mother, Amandine, and her violent, older sister, Ruth, darkened Racinda's childhood years and laid the rickety foundation for the bewildered, hard-drinking and hard-drugging life to follow. The only sympathetic adult in her family—her grandmother Button—lies comatose in a hospital. Left hopeless and empty after a bad acid trip, Racinda lies about her age and has herself committed to a mental institution, simply hoping to slow the world down and stop the pain for a while. Unlike the chipper cheerleaders and sanitized outsiders of much high school fiction, Racinda is a raw version of American adolescence; she is desperate, nihilistic, and bound by the misery that accompanies being a teenage girl. In occasionally jerky though energetic prose, Merrick, editor of the forthcoming Random House anthology This Is Not Chick Lit , has crafted a moody, gothic debut, which makes for a brutal, and cathartic, emotional experience. It's a nice start for Merrick and Brooklyn-based Demimonde alike. (Dec.)