A self-described “dorky virgin” from a crushingly boring Central Jersey suburb, Scarlett Epstein feels both socially inferior and intellectually superior to everyone around her.
White, Jewish Scarlett’s grown up eating subsidized lunches at school, and her mother cleans the bathrooms of other kids’ houses, so the chip on her shoulder after years of slights is Montana-sized. She handles it by affecting an often hilarious, sarcastic distance, turning her hand-me-downs into an aesthetic choice, and liberally peppering her conversation with both popular and obscure cultural references. As a prominent member of a fandom obsessing over the recently canceled supernatural teen drama Lycanthrope High, Scarlett’s social life mostly takes place online, and she uses her popular fan fiction series to process her feelings and experiences. Though her life is full of good people—her mother, her best friend, Avery, her delightfully vinegary neighbor Ruth—who hold up loving mirrors to her most judgmental, emotionally distancing impulses, Scarlett stubbornly sees herself as an underachieving loner with a uniquely sophisticated read on the world. Thanks in part to glimpses of her autobiographical fics, serialized within the main narrative, readers will quickly see what Scarlett doesn’t: that she pushes people away, that her underachievement is a pose, that she’s often thoughtlessly cruel and self-absorbed, and that’s she’s worth rooting for anyway.
A sparkling, unabashedly feminist debut. (Fiction. 13-17)