Fragile coed with working-class roots struggles to come out of her shell during her last year at an East Coast university.
Pretty and smart (even though she has trouble seeing it), 20-year-old Natalie Bloom has managed to make it to her senior year at UConn with an impressive GPA—and her virginity intact. Good grades are paramount to the Russian history major, who is the youngest of seven children, none of whom except her made it to college. Natalie is a transfer from a community college, making her a bit out of step with the cool kids on campus. Everything changes when she reluctantly agrees to start seeing lanky, Saab-driving Patrick. At first he behaves like an interested beau, but after they have sex, he begins basically using her for her body. Natalie becomes obsessed with him, and her self-esteem, never strong to begin with, plummets. Distracted and ill-equipped to handle her conflicting emotions, she watches helplessly as her grades suffer. Rebuffing the kindhearted professor and classmates who try to reach out, Natalie behaves erratically: She starts to smoke and crops off her long dark hair in an effort to be “ugly.” Her self-destructiveness reaches a moment of epiphany during winter break when, after a particularly humiliating episode with Patrick, she realizes how much of her experience has been colored by the suicide of her beloved older brother Jacob. Her only hope for happiness is to change the dysfunctional patterns of her life. Both cringe-worthy and compelling, self-absorbed Natalie will remind many readers of their own awkward youth. The depiction of her closed-off, emotionally abusive blue-collar family, however, is at times too broad.
A deft, modest coming-of-age tale from debut author Weitz.