INNOCENCE by Jane Mendelsohn


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Growing up in Manhattan can be hell, especially if you’re the haunted heroine of this scary, tricky neo-gothic thriller.

It’s bad enough that Rebecca Warner’s mother was killed by a drunk driver. But when her father decided to move back to the city with his daughter, he promptly fell for Pamela Reeve, Beckett’s school nurse, and now everything is one long nightmare. Or rather a series of short, MTV-style nightmares in which the murders of three new school friends are indistinguishable from the onset of Beckett’s first period, and the melted chocolate ice cream in the family freezer just might be frozen blood. Is Beckett hallucinating because her imagination has been sent spiraling into overdrive by the pills Pamela is constantly popping into her? Or is Pamela really a vampire whose life depends on a diet of virgins’ menstrual blood? Is Beckett’s waking nightmare, which she keeps plangently insisting is true, a train of once-in-a-lifetime coincidences (on his way over to spend the night with her, and perhaps save her life by deflowering her, her boyfriend Tobey is beaten so savagely in a restroom that he sinks into a coma)—or the result of a fiendish conspiracy between her father, her stepmother, and her psychiatrist—or an anthology of metaphors for a normal American coming-of-age in the infant century? Invoking a battery of analogues favoring the pop-culture heroines of Alice in Wonderland<\I>, The Wizard of Oz<\I>, Lolita<\I>, and Halloween<\I>, Mendelsohn (I Was Amelia Earhart<\I>, 1996) isolates her plucky heroine so fearfully via sparse paragraphs and an underpeopled world that even the most preposterous threats leap out of the movie frame to fuel a shriek of pure paranoia.

Must reading for anybody who thinks teenagers today have gotten bloated with entitlement: a scarlet will-o’-the-wisp fantasy in which adults and adulthood aren’t stupid stiffs but agents of unimaginable evil.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2000
ISBN: 1-57322-164-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2000


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