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A young girl's diary presents a rioting vision of near-future Manhattan. Twelve-year-old Lola Hart, her sister, Boob, and their perfectly loving parents live on the Upper East Side. Daddy's a failing scriptwriter; Mommy's an unemployed professor; the girls go to private school. Lola begins a diary in February on a note of barely perceived alarm, as several schoolmates contract TB and the smoke and ash from uprisings in Brooklyn and Queens loom over Park Avenue. Something awful is happening out there, but her parents shield her from it. Finally her father's Hollywood work dries up in a nose-diving economy, and the family has to move to the bottom edge of West Harlem. Amid these crises, Lola discovers she likes girls; the rioting worsens; and ""Operation Domestic Storm,"" in which the army, national guard, and local police create martial law, shifts into full gear. Lola makes friends with some black and Puerto Rican girls from her new neighborhood, and they induct her by degrees into their gang, the Death Angels. In a matter of months, as the diary progresses, further violence and family misfortune sharpen and harden Lola. Womack (Elvissey, 1992, etc.) is at his best when Lola is at her toughest: Her good-girl voice, filled with innocent dread, gradually mutates into a kind of terrordome-speak, a lingo that mixes hip-hop cadences and linguistic neologisms on the order of A Clockwork Orange: ""Me and Mama rode back lipstilled the whole way. She vizzed sad like I know I do but nothing was sayable so I hushed and just remembered Boob like I knew her back when we homed in our old place."" Womack's idea of the near future moves at a gallop: In six months, two presidents are assassinated, the money system changes, and all of Manhattan takes up arms. Womack gets high on violence the way Ballard and Burroughs do: with sickened brio. Tense, knowing, and ambitious, this novel gets New York's class system right as it creates a language informed by every kind of contemporary American extremism.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly