The razory hip Charlie sallies forth from a hateful adolescence to find sex, self-awareness and then, in its many guises, the thing called love.
Early in Halston’s tale, Charlie has a black sheep tattooed on her back, but that’s more a wish than a reality. Living with an abusive aunt after the death of her parents, she is a smart, reflective creature–post-Goth, baleful and brooding with a long streak of bookish bohemianism–though she displays little smarts when she falls for the tattoo artist. The emotional pain that Charlie experiences is beveled as Halston seesaws the chapters, touching down at the aunt’s house, then eight years later when Charlie has her own bookstore, and between, the now charged, now dolorous years. The author keeps the scale intimate so readers see the events of Charlie’s life up close, from the slap of her aunt reddening her cheek to raw, yet fruitful, discussions with her friends regarding her sexual orientation: â€œWhat a gentlemanly feminist you’ve become,” chides one, as Charlie explores her lesbian leanings. The air of the book is sweet but not saccharine, emotionally generous, allowing Charlie to be uncompromising and independent and then tyrannized by her love life, idiosyncratic in her brainy verve, then willing to step back and look at the effluvia of her suburban existence. Halston lets the characters’ actions speak for them and, as a result, well-rounded personalities emerge. Charlie is a gem–a hard-bitten gem for sure–if calculatingly available. Books are her savior, despite the fact that she has to sell them. Customers suck. â€œDon’t you just hate people?” her boss asks at one point. â€œYes. Yes, I do,” says Charlie.
A lovely piece of female confessional.