VICIOUS SPRING by Hollis Hampton-Jones


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Bleary first novel about a perpetually drugged teenager floating downward through the seedier side of Nashville.

Although you spend this entire book with Christy—she’s the narrator, after all—by the end you have next to no idea who this person this. With post-post–Bret Easton Ellis brio, Hampton-Jones propels the heroine right out of her last year of high school and into an acid-fogged haze from which she displays no interest in a life and little ability to get one. Seemingly without friends in school, she drifts into a job at the mall and sleeps haphazardly with a couple of older guys. The more serious “boyfriend” is Del, a strip-club bouncer in his 30s who has the best pot among Christy’s tiny circle of acquaintances. The only thing approaching reality in her life is younger sister Lizzy, a punked-out shriek of a girl as opinionated and individualistic as Christy is sour and invisible. When Lizzy dies in a car accident, Christy can’t bear to stay in the house with her Jesus-freak mother and leering pothead father. She moves in with Del, and it isn’t long before she’s reincarnated as Sugar, a stripper with a nasty coke habit. Hampton-Jones understands that the blankness of the narration in this sort of doomed-youth story shocks and horrifies more than graphic description, and she also resists the urge to make her tale an appeal for a new lost generation. But for all the deftly observed moments, there are too many easy targets: the freakish parents, the ready availability of strip clubs, the synthetic suburban backdrop. Christy’s tale feels like nothing more than an exercise in style.

Shocks but utterly fails to linger.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-57322-243-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2003