The partying is intense in this first novel, a look at America’s bright young things under a cloud or two.
The kids from Lawrenceville, a private New Jersey boarding school, are getting hammered at a birthday party in a Manhattan bar. One girl has passed out. Two guys, Tom and Clare, both seniors, volunteer to take her home. Tom Alison, the narrator, was the school’s pot dealer until he was busted; now he’s on probation. Clare Savage was one of Tom's clients. His father, Michael, has been much in the news: A money manager targeted by the Feds for insider trading, he's fled the country. Columbia has withdrawn its offer to Tom, and Clare is stuck on the waitlist for Yale, so they have thwarted ambitions in common. Tom’s single mom, who has a lucrative catering business in Princeton, invites Clare to stay with them. The other new person in Tom’s life is Kelsey, who designs clothes in St. Andrews, Scotland, where Tom is headed (small world); he and Clare will lie low at the university there. St. Andrews is a party campus. The town is all pubs. The first one Tom enters, oh joy, reveals Prince William (the year is 2003). He’s kicking back with his mate Jules, Kelsey’s new/old boyfriend; Jules owns a castle, a good catch for a Jersey girl. Drugs are everywhere. Will may be prince, but cocaine is king. The action recalls another debut, Less Than Zero, but Bret Easton Ellis’ novel was permeated by nihilism; it had a worldview. Parish just skips blithely from one binge to the next, no direction in mind. He flies in the fugitive financier for a banal meeting with Tom, then sends the boys home for Christmas, scaring up some drama around Tom’s best friend, Casey, a major coke dealer, before whisking the whole gang back to Scotland for some poorly staged mayhem at Kelsey’s big-bucks fashion show.
No plot, no character development, so Parish’s fluid narrative skills are wasted.