The Summer of Naked Swim Parties
Jessica Anya Blau, Author . Harper Perennial $13.95 (290p) ISB
In this debut novel, Blau addresses the coming-of-age of a young girl as she navigates her way through the confusion of adolescence. Fourteen-year-old Jamie lives in Santa Barbara with her 16-year-old sister, Renee, and their parents, Allen and Betty, two swinging, pot-smoking, part-time nudists. It's 1976 and Jamie isn't altogether comfortable with her parents' lifestyle, while Renee turns to straighter neighbors for a surrogate family. Overly anxious Jamie ends up with Flip, the cutest surfer in town. Before long they have progressed way beyond kissing, and Allen and Betty's casual ways result in a disaster that turn the family into pariahs in their middle-class neighborhood. Blau understands the mating rituals of 1970s teens, and she reproduces their mindless chatter with ease. Unfortunately, not all of the characters are fully realized; the adults, generally treated more obliquely, give off no more than hints of character. It's obvious that their excessive hedonism will eventually cause tragedy, so the book does have a growing dread that blossoms in the third quarter, but the reader may be left with the impression that all this ground has been covered before.
Reviewed on: 02/25/2008