cover image Night Terrors: Sex, Dating, Puberty, and Other Alarming Things

Night Terrors: Sex, Dating, Puberty, and Other Alarming Things

Ashley Cardiff. Gotham, $16 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-592-40786-6

In this riotous memoir, deputy editor Cardiff turns a gimlet eye on sex%E2%80%94not the fun adult kind, but the horrible transition from innocence to experience, a passage she calls "a big purple Jungian k-hole... you don't know what it is, you know it's bad and you're obsessed with it." The book traces a kind of warped arc from youth to sexual maturity, and the best passages describe Cardiff's faltering first steps into sexuality: her formative encounter with a skeevy New Age sexual athlete who'd "never had sex... but [had] made love at least a thousand times"; misinformed tween rumors about what happens after anal sex; and a disastrous attempt at faking sexual precocity ("I have, like... four... anal beads in [my backpack]," she says to a cool older girl). But there are flashes of sweetness in the midst of this. For all the fun Cardiff makes of the idiocy of her youth ("My knowledge of France at sixteen was informed entirely by the chef in The Little Mermaid."), she astutely notes that "all feelings are at once more lucid and baroque when we're seventeen." It's to Cardiff's credit that these feelings, no matter how overwrought they were at the time, are remembered here with humor, sensitivity, and wisdom. Agent: Erin Malone, WME Entertainment. (June)