Stupid Children

Lenore Zion. Emergency Press (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-983-69326-0
After her widower father's suicide attempt leads to a permanent stay at a mental institution, teenager Jane is plucked from her home in Miami Beach and shipped off to foster care. Here, she finds herself under the thumb of an odd new family, members of a peculiar religious sect known as the Second Day Believers. Jane experiments with cutting, endures a strange, Denis Johnson-esque acid trip with her pal, Virginia, and briefly runs away. Despite her angst and rebellion, Jane is earmarked as the ideal mate for Sir One, the cult's leader. Adolescent adventures and bizarre ritualistic ceremonies—including "healing swims" in pools of animal intestines, cleansings by way of nose shattering balloons, and rebirthing celebrations involving cow carcasses—pack the imaginative debut novel from Zion, who seems to wonder if the "stupid children" of the title are Jane and her friends or the sect's muddled followers. While Zion nicely balances the relatable with the curious as she weaves a darkly humorous, gloomy tale, the novel falls shy of complete satisfaction. Jane's tortured existence is compelling, but unneeded plot reminders and an overly loquacious (and tangent-friendly) narration squander momentum, making the already slim volume feel unevenly padded. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!