An electrifying follow-up to her bestselling I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn's Innocence is a modern gothic coming-of-age story, a devastating X-ray of American culture, and a piercing exploration of a teenage girl growing up in New York City. Narrated with incisive wit by fourteen-year-old Becket, the novel traces her relationship with her widowed father, her encounters with the intimidating Beautiful Girls at school, her attraction to the mysterious and dangerous school nurse, her attachment to the raffish Tobey, and a series of devastating nightmares that threaten Becket's life as she moves from girl to woman. Mendelsohn has written an allegory about the precarious state of the American teenager in a culture that sucks the life force out of its young, who are nurtured by the movies and fantasy and narcissism rather than by values such as honesty and love. This is a world as startingly original and hauntingly familiar as our dreams, where the line between fantasy and reality, between sanity and insanity, is razor-thin. Playful, frightening, profound, and gripping, Innocence is the rare thing - a page turner with the depth of poetry and the immediacy of cinema.
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When Beckett is transplanted to an upscale school in Manhattan after the death of her mother, she is not surprised to be snubbed by the in-crowd. What does surprise her, and her loving father, is that when she looks out her apartment window one night, the three most popular girls in school are dead on the asphalt below, their blue jeans seeping blood. Beckett is already prone to Holden Caulfield-like observations about the fakeness around her, the propensity of the people she meets to become only "movie stars" acting their parts. Are the suicides imaginary? And what about her new friend, Pamela, the school nurse, who begins to date her father? Is this woman's concern purely affectionate or does Beckett, a beautiful young virgin, have something that she wants?
Following the quiet wedding of Pamela and Beckett's father, held in the apartment, Beckett opens her bathroom door to find the toilet full of blood. At once she recognizes the blood as "a sacred symbol, a message, a warning, a sign." In fear, she imagines it spilling over the bowl, splashing her hands and face. "Then the fear dies down," Beckett explains, "and I see that the blood is just a liquid, nothing but a surprise. But as the loud, throaty sound of the flush fills my head and I turn off the light, I know that the blood means something. I know that the blood is not just a surprise. I know that it is meant for me." Using Carol Clover's concept of the final girl--the one who survives by learning to kill--in slasher films, Jane Mendelsohn (I Was Amelia Earhart) offers a brilliant and sinister vision of a schoolgirl's loss of innocence. As for the virgin suicides, the bats, the bloody bundles in the freezer, the reader comes to realize, with Beckett, that it doesn't matter what is real, only what is true. --Regina MarlerAbout the Author:
Jane Mendelsohn was born in New York City, and graduated from Yale. Her first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, spent fourteen weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. She is married and lives in New York with her husband, filmmaker Nick Davis.
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