Rainey Royal

Dylan Landis. Soho, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61695-452-9

In her first novel, Landis returns to the themes and characters of her collection of linked short stories, 2009’s Normal People Don’t Live Like This. The title character, 14 years old when we first meet her in 1972, lives in a once-grand Greenwich Village townhouse with her father, Howard, a jazz musician of some note, and Howard’s various hangers-on. The unwanted sexual attentions of her father’s friend Gordy, who also had a relationship with her absent mother, both confuse and repulse Rainey, who, along with friends Tina and Leah, wields her nascent sexual power awkwardly yet dangerously. Over the course of the novel, which covers more than a decade, Rainey develops into an artist, piecing together commemorative tapestries out of clothing, photographs, and jewelry of the deceased. Her story, along with Tina and Leah’s, illustrate a particularly fraught view of adolescent female sexuality. “Notice me. Stay away,” thinks Leah at one point at a party, and these dueling sentiments sum up these girls’ complex and contradictory attitudes toward sex, romance, and even friendship. Landis offers a rich, sometimes challenging portrait of young women doing their best to grow in the absence of positive role models. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Sept.)