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A nicely pointed first novel about a stalker's explicit letters to a teenage girl falls apart when it adopts the muddled plotting, senseless violence, and out-of-character stupid choices of a grade-B horror movie. Libby is a smart, sassy 15-year-old, the daughter of aloof Senator Tom Martin and his gung-ho devout, church-going wife, whom the whole family calls Ma'am. Libby lives in an ordinary American suburb, where she chatters with Dad's colleagues, plays with her sister, and talks to boys on the phone when she grows too old to tie them up in the backyard. Then she receives an anonymous letter threatening heinous sexual violence and murder. All this preliminary material is delivered in a concise, visual style that promises more evocative descriptions in an airtight plot. But these hopes are dashed when Libby is forced to take a road trip with Dad, ostensibly to escape the stalker. In an unconvincing bohemian about-face, the pair tool around in his messy car with some of his young employees (including a political adversary's daughter), eating in greasy spoons and crashing at the house of a colleague: the bathrobed Senator Ada Russell. Improbable events pile one upon the other in dizzying confusion, mingling all the while with Libby's flashbacks, which are excessively preoccupied with breasts, menstrual blood, and vomit. The vile letter is eclipsed by Libby's much more twisted reality. She learns the terrible truth about her father's relationship with Senator Russell and is sexually molested by more than one person. The brutal impact of this graphic abuse is amplified by her sudden inability to make intelligent decisions and by her captors' murky motives. The collapse of a coherent story is at least as upsetting as the novel's gruesome content. Bloodbath. Bilebath. Plan on a shower after this one.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1994
ISBN: 0810150417
Page count: 196pp
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.