First-novelist Canty (stories, A Stranger in This World, 1994) offers a tale of teenage love more engaging in its details...



First-novelist Canty (stories, A Stranger in This World, 1994) offers a tale of teenage love more engaging in its details than in the full-dimensioned pull of its characters. Troubled and sensitive Kenny Kolodny is 17 and unhappy at home when he falls in love with his very classy classmate Junie Williamson, winning her away from the girlfriend rumored to be her current lover. Whether Junie has been a lesbian does matter to Kenny (who's got nagging doubts about his own sexual preferences), but nowhere as much as the differences between his family and hers. Junie lives in a good part of town (in a Frank Lloyd Wright house with ""rock walls""), her father is a lawyer and her mother-though with troubles of her own--a successful pediatrician. On Kenny's side of the equation are an institutionalized mother and an abusive, deeply alcoholic father. Not surprisingly, he tells Junie little about his family while becoming more and more familiar with hers--and with Junie herself, whose bedroom allows all the privacy and privilege any pair of lovers with hyperindulgent parents carefully looking the other way could possibly wish. Where the true center of Kenny's woes really lies may not always feel completely clear--or real--to the reader, but he's already smoking a lot of dope and well on the way to dropping out of school when he finds his father is felled by a stroke; and when Junie turns up pregnant, Kenny sweeps her up and wafts her westward--though the two don't get far before life turns in a direction they hadn't expected, reasserting itself with a mundane power that will take Junie, if not to college, then toward it, and Kenny back home where for the next ten years, the suggestion is, he'll ache and pine. Canty can be stylistically engaging, but love at 18, this time around, remains an adolescent affair, however much it strains for the significant and high.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996


Page Count: 224

Publisher: Talese/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996