cover image Girl


Blake Nelson. Touchstone Books, $13 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-671-89707-9

Sans obscenities, this first novel by Details writer Nelson could be YA fiction at the very top of the genre. As it follows the highly sympathetic narrator named Andrea through her junior and senior years of high school in Portland, Ore., the novel speaks the language of most of this age group: ``And I had been so good in the last week at blocking Todd out of my mind but now it all came rushing back, how great it was to be with him, that great feeling of being free and having great talks and being a million miles away from mean stupid people like Trevor.'' The brand-name litanies, beloved of older writers trying too hard to capture adolescent language, are thankfully absent. Andrea's candid and surprisingly sweet monologue, uncondescendingly records a world of clothes anxieties, coolness consciousness and her confusing mix of tender, erotic and angry feelings toward alternative rocker, downtown big shot and on-and-off lover Todd Sparrow. While making Andrea neither victim nor victimizer, Nelson captures this young woman's fears and joys in subtle and often uncannily accurate ways as Andrea aches for consistency but still revels in life's indeterminacies. Ultimately, the swear words and awkward sex scenes make the novel a more accurate recording of contemporary adolescence. One of the strengths of the novel is that it falls into an interesting genre purgatory that simultaneously critiques the strictures of current YA fiction while it exposes the unattractive jadedness of much adult fiction. (Sept.)