In this debut novel, a young woman experiences monumental changes in life and love in the 1960s and ’70s in a coastal California community.
For Toni, childhood is a time of joy and wonder. The eldest of four kids, she is devoted to her parents; her sister, Becky; and her brothers, Lucas and Michael. The family lives in an idyllic beach community in California close to her grandmother and great-grandmother. Some of Toni’s most cherished memories involve trips with her sister to the market or the theater. Although Toni’s parents strive to keep their children “insulated from the harsh realities of the outside world,” she soon discovers that this realm, with all its joys and heartbreaks, is an integral part of adolescence. A popular student, she is especially fond of modern dance and theater, and enjoys writing. As she enters adolescence and young adulthood, her thoughts turn to the seemingly elusive goal of true and lasting love. She falls in love easily, but is consumed by her passion for Jason, a troubled young man unable to commit himself fully to Toni. Throughout it all, she records her experiences, both significant and routine, in her diary on a regular basis. Warren’s novel is an intimate bildungsroman of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood. Toni is a winsome protagonist, bright, curious, and open to various possibilities yet uncertain about the direction her life will take. Although the story is told almost exclusively through her diary entries, intriguing supporting characters gradually emerge, particularly Jason, the object of Toni’s affections, and Van, a potential boyfriend. The stream-of-consciousness narrative encompasses Toni’s diary notes, free verse poetry, and vignettes that reflect on a variety of topics, from the importance of etiquette to the pain of first heartbreak. The diary reports are brief and include references to popular culture, such as the television show Here Come the Brides, and historical events like the Apollo 9 launch. But Warren’s ambitious narrative includes a panoply of styles and the transitions between the diary items and the vignettes are abrupt.
A thoughtful, if disjointed, exploration of adolescence.