Seventeen-year-old goth Maja accidentally cuts off the end of her thumb in class with an electric saw.
It’s horrifying, but like most things in her life, she’s a spectator as well as a participant. A few days later, she goes on her usual scheduled visit to her emotionally distant mother, Jana, but finds no one home—all weekend. Quite by accident, that leads her to stumble in on a neighbor’s party, where she meets Justin. In a gently nuanced translation from its original Swedish, their initial sexual encounter—painful then surprisingly satisfying—is both tender and funny. Finally, as bits of evidence are gradually revealed, Maja learns the truth of her odd, emotionally bruising relationship with Jana: Her mother has just been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Although that accounts for her mother’s lifelong distance, it’s nearly impossible for Maja to come to grips with it. Sex and alcohol pervade the tale, but it’s Maja’s attempts to understand and cope with her mother that define it. While the Swedish setting, place names and cultural differences add flavor, Maja’s fully authentic first-person voice as she relates her internal struggles will carry readers past any unfamiliarity. The cover art is strangely inappropriate; Maja, with her nearly shaved, dyed black hair and goth clothing looks nothing like the pink-haired girl depicted.
A moving, complex and satisfying import. (Fiction. 14 & up)