Russian youth smoke, drink, fight, make out, hang out: an unremarkable collection about the rough young-adult world for the young-adult reader, though complete with violence, blue language and cigarettes.
The world of Denezhkina’s debut stories (originally published online in 2002 Russia) is the self-absorbed young world in which MTV’s Road Rules thrives. Nothing particularly remarkable happens, and it doesn’t happen to anyone particularly remarkable. In one story, the kids are at summer camp; in another, they’ve met on the Internet; in another, they’re a drunken rock band. The names change, but it could all just as well be one long, pointless novel. Like the characters in S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders series, the players here are aimless teenagers with plenty of spare time and very little to do with it. But Lyapa is no Ponyboy, and Denezhkina’s protagonists lack the charisma and roughhewn personalities that made the series work for Hinton. Denezhkina’s prose style is every bit as jejune as her characters, and Give Me reads like a high-school girl’s diary, albeit the schoolgirl happens to be Russian. One of the stories ends with “Suddenly his tongue was in my mouth.” Nearly all protagonists are young women, one surprising exception being “Vasya and the Green Men,” a neo-mythical piece about a “puny ten-year-old tyke” with a Ping-Pong ball for one eye and red Nazi flag underwear who rids his town of a gang of foul-smelling rapists. Denezhkina’s girls, like typical American ones, spend most of their time thinking about boys or hanging around them, while a good portion of same either get brutally beaten or participate in brutal beatings. At the same time, in a departure from the bitter tradition of Russian literature, Denezhkina’s guardedly positive attitude pervades the volume, as though the stories were taking place amid a mildly hopeful soundtrack.
All edge, no blade. Wait for her next.