cover image The Virgins

The Virgins

Pamela Erens. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $15.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-935639-62-6

In Erens's (The Understory) second novel students Seung Jung and Aviva Rossner are widely known at Auburn Academy boarding school for flaunting their promiscuity. Despite the rumors about their sexual escapades, Seung and Aviva are virgins, unable to consummate their relationship. Set in 1979, Bruce Bennett-Jones, a fellow student, narrates this tale of a seemingly mismatched couple, Seung, a Korean-American boy experimenting with drugs, and Aviva, a Jewish girl trying to find her area of aptitude. From Bruce's perspective, the reader is shown the initial meeting between Seung and Aviva, their growing passion towards each other, the resulting drama and final tragedy. Meanwhile, Bruce's own desire for Aviva is apparent, but his failed initial attempt prevents him from pursuing her. Instead, Bruce uses Aviva as the focus of his sexual fantasies. Erens effectively depicts both Seung's frustration in being unable to satisfy Aviva physically and Aviva's desperation to let herself fully lose control. Adroitly capturing the anguish of adolescent desire, Eren's latest is a lesson in love, loss, and tragedy. Agent: Anna Stein O'Sullivan, Aitken Alexander Associates, LLC. (Aug.)