Middle-class family in free fall.
This precocious debut by a 17-year-old author bears unblinking witness to an ordinary family’s plunge into folie à quatre. Harry, Beatrice, and their teenaged daughters, Vivian and Lilliana, alternate points of view in a narrative composed of frantic interior monologues, punchy declarative sentences, repetitive fragments, beaucoup italics, and stretches of dialogue only—all spellbinding at first but later tedious, since all the voices sound alike, minus the profanity in the case of goody-two-shoes Beatrice. Never was a mother so maligned. Just ask her. Bea’s only crime is to be a prudish, conscientious housewife whose prime mission in life is making hubby’s favorite meals. Which she continues to do, even though he’s away on a two-week business trip. Lilli, 16, blithely fornicates with older boys in her bedroom. But her self-possession flags when she falls in love with the stubbornly seduction-proof Paul, her guitar teacher. She copes by mutilating herself with a formidable array of sharp objects. Meanwhile, older sister Vivian, 17, is reshaping her studious image and plotting virginity loss. A little anorexia, one piercing, a dye-job, and a butterfly tattoo later, she gains provisional admittance to the court of the high-school mean girl, glossy-lipped Katerina. After Kat manipulates her into posing for lesbian-porn Polaroids, Vivian becomes a social pariah but achieves her ultimate goal: a neat role reversal with Lilliana. The incredibly mean-spirited Harry bemoans his ennui with Bea’s too-chaste adoration and brisket dinners all these years as he skips business meetings to revel in the fleshpots of—Cleveland? Marquit skillfully interweaves recurring motifs, including the room that isolates the characters—the teenagers’ bedrooms that Bea avoids (they threaten her denial), Harry’s hotel room, Bea’s kitchen. There are also the stains on Lilli’s rug and Bea’s blue dress. In a shocking close, implacable ironies descend on the family, but the heavy-handed, one-dimensional portrayals cheapen the thrills.
Sure to attract a Gen-Y following and further traumatize parents.