“Approach all unpleasant tasks in life as a performance art piece,” declares an unnamed 16-year-old goth in Woods’s collection of eight uncompromising stories set in rural Illinois. In visceral descriptions of decay, boredom, and limited opportunities, Woods (The Albino Album) besieges her coming-of-age characters with drugs, guns, jail, pedophilia, and teen pregnancy. In “Zombie,” unsupervised tweens care for a homeless, battered woman who’s secretly living in a mausoleum. In “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street,” a codependent couple tries to make their relationship work amid drugs, schizophrenia, and self-absorbed parents. The most heart-wrenching story, “What’s Happening in the News?”, is a punch-to-the-gut exposé of the hypocrisy of religious zealots who organize consumer boycotts and repress sexuality, and of military recruiters who exploit poor teens with no other options. As Woods’s characters struggle to eke out an identity, they confront the bleak difficulties of their lives and persist in surviving. (May)
Reviewed on: 07/10/2017 Release date: 05/01/2017 Genre: Fiction
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