A portrait of a girl’s unstable and sexually fraught adolescence in Florida.
Preteen Callie is headed back to Florida with her alcoholic, underemployed mother after a failed attempt to start over on the West Coast. She imagines driving away: “Everything outside would begin to blur...and it would feel familiar, which made me intensely sad, that a blur was something I could get used to.” Kriseman’s debut novel tells Callie’s story of these “blurry years” as a series of snapshots taking place over about a decade as Callie’s peripatetic mother ditches one boyfriend after another and tries to keep the duo’s heads above water even as her daughter is drowning in loneliness. Callie begins reaching out in the ways that are the most familiar to her: In junior high, she’s trying to cajole beers from local beachgoers and tagging along with her best friend when an older man invites them to his apartment. By 14, she’s lost her virginity on a whim at a house party and is stealing lingerie from the woman she babysits for. Things get worse from there. From the first pages, we can see Callie’s dissolution barreling toward her, but the novel’s interest lies less in the familiar shape of its events and far more in the quiet melancholy with which Callie endures them. That her own rueful self-awareness can’t stop her self-destruction is much of the book’s power—so much so that when Kriseman tries to course-correct in the final chapters, it feels artificial. If Callie were real, we’d be desperately rooting for her to pull it together; as readers, we want her to linger in “the grimy bathrooms, the filthy bedrooms, the messy backseats of shitty old cars.”
An elegant, but uneven, glimpse into the life of a memorable protagonist.