A 17-year-old basketball player faces the complications of growing up smart, talented, and female in New York City circa 1993.
" 'Girl,' he goes, 'you the real thing, you the real thing,’ and he takes my hand and pulls my whole body into his, smacks my back three times, giving me a genuine but sweaty bro hug. There's only one place in the whole universe where a pizza bagel—a Jewish and Italian mutt girl—might get that exact compliment from a middle-aged black guy: 40 degrees latitude and -73 degrees longitude. Find it on your atlas." Lucy Adler is passionate about her hometown: Glittering, original descriptions of New York and its denizens go on for pages and pages in this account of her senior year at Pendleton Academy. Not only do they never get old, you'll want to read them twice. Lucy's biggest problem is that she's both in love and in lust with her best friend and basketball buddy, Percy, a boy from an ultrarich family who barely seems to recognize her as female as he goes through girlfriends like chewing gum. In Lucy's corner as she considers her love life, her future, her generation, her city, and the effects of economic class and sexism on all of the above is her astute and articulate cousin, Violet, a painter who lives in a loft with another young woman artist whose American flag constructed from dildos made the Whitney Biennial. Violet can't wait to be 35; “by then,” she believes, "everything will be over." She'll be a success or a failure. In the latter case, she plans to "throw in the towel and marry some business-casual moron and move to the suburbs and eat processed cheese all day and watch Thelma and Louise over and over until my eyes explode." The writing in Czapnik's debut is sparkling throughout; her background as a sports journalist shines in the basketball passages. "Does art always win?" Lucy wonders, reading a protest sign at an “Art vs. Kmart” demonstration. "If it did, the world would be a very different place. Yet it doesn't always lose either, does it? So I guess the answer is sometimes. Sometimes art wins." It certainly does here.
Coming-of-age in Manhattan may not have been done this brilliantly since Catcher in the Rye. That comparison has been made before, but this time, it's true. Get ready to fall in love.