This cautionary novel for mature audiences, the first in an anticipated series, looks at teenage desires and vulnerabilities gone haywire.
The teenage years: when one just wants to be wanted. Resles’ (The Bess M. Gilbert Art Collection, 2012, as L. E. Lomax) novel opens as Carleigh awakens in her suburban California home on the eve of her 15th birthday. A few pages into the story, Carleigh confides to readers that she was molested at age 10 (though she’s kept it a secret), that she and her brother don’t get along, and that her mother, who’s unfair about chores, sometimes slaps her. This kind of ping-ponging between dark horrors and run-of-the mill teenage gripes sets the tone for the rest of the novel. The author gives Carleigh a diffuse, superficial voice that’s dissociated from her life’s minor dramas and brief spells of happiness as well as its endless chain of tragedies. Such disconnectedness might very well be an authentic affect for a 15-year-old girl, particularly a survivor of abuse, but here, it doesn’t make for an especially engaging read. The experience is similar to reading an adolescent diary—equal parts embarrassing, somewhat appalling and tiresome—with a lead character who, despite her hardships, isn’t particularly sympathetic. As Carleigh’s 15th year progresses, she embarks on a series of escalating sexual encounters, many of them involuntary. Every male in her life, it seems, is eager to sexually possess her—her high school is apparently populated almost exclusively by predators—and her only ally is the golden-haired boy next door, Aiken, who, frankly, does some pretty creepy things, too. Aiken’s best friend, inexplicably, is a police officer and a pedophile who uses his power and brute force to make Carleigh submit to him in unspeakable ways. Carleigh provides the full, gory details of these attacks in a maddeningly adolescent, dramatic but oddly emotionless tone: “God, he is such a freak! I loathe him with every ounce of my being!” The overall effect can be disturbingly voyeuristic: Readers find out a lot about what other people do to Carleigh’s body but very little about the inner workings of her mind.
A graphic, violent and rather shallow novel about a highly sexualized girl; decidedly inappropriate for teens.