Book: Fierce People
Author: Dirk Wittenborn
Published: 2002 (Bloomsbury)
This is the rich, slightly weirder-ass version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which, though I hailed as the most subversive realistic thing I’d read at fourteen, is actually your fairly standard square-gets-wild finds-meaning-of-life power-of-weirdo-friends coming of age arc.
And trust me, I feel just as cynical as that sentence sounds. But! This book adds unique details that ramp up the outsider-ness: this kid and his sort-of functioning junkie mom get a chance to move out of their shitty NYC situation into a rich neighborhood when the mom gets a “job” as a personal masseuse for the dude who owns the place.
Oh yeah, there is plenty of speculation of how exactly his mom gets (and keeps) this job, but the kid gets wrapped up in neighborhood society politics by becoming friends with kids from the only two extremes of class represented (kids from the rich neighborhood families and the domestic help that waits on them) and falling in lusty, hormonal love with the patriarch’s granddaughter.
That plus suppressed neighborhood secrets press together and rub against each other into explosive results that completely dissect the society’s framework.
Bookshelf. It’s just the right blend of scandalous, growing up, and satire that’s very well disguised in humanity. Good stuff.