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Innocence [Paperback]

Jane Mendelsohn
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Adolescence is a tough time for most people, and it is especially hard for 14-year-old Beckett, whose mother was killed in a drunk-driving accident in the suburbs. After the accident, her father, Miles, decides to move to an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, enrolling Beckett in an exclusive private school. Strange things are happening at this schoolDseveral girls have formed suicide pacts, and three girls kill themselves shortly after Beckett begins school. It is through these events that Beckett meets Pam, the school nurse, who begins dating Miles and eventually becomes Beckett's new stepmother. Part modern Gothic, the novel flows along in a stream-of-consciousness narrative that reveals Beckett's inner turmoil. We also learn that all is not as it seems with Pam and the strange events at school. The book offers an interesting spin on the traditional coming-of-age story as it keeps the reader wondering, Is this fantasy or is this reality? Suitable for adults, this second novel by the author of I Was Amelia Earhart might also appeal to a mature young adult reader. Recommended for public libraries.
-DRobin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mendelsohn's novels, including I Was Ame lia Earhart (1996), are distinguished by their vivid visualizations of mental states and delight in confusing the imagined with the real. Here she depicts the convulsive coming-of-age of a privileged New York teenager called Beckett, whose mother was killed by a drunk driver. Her father enrolls her in a fancy private school infamous for student suicides, then he falls in love with Pamela, the sexy school nurse. Beckett's first menstrual period hits her as hard as the vehicle that killed her mother, and once her father and Pamela decide to get married, her world turns nightmarish. Her stepmother-to-be morphs into a blood-sucking monster right out of a B horror movie, and Beckett, who sees herself reflected everywhere she looks, from mirrors to television and computer screens, fears for her life. Mendelsohn uses this obsession with appearance to dramatize the toll our image-saturated culture exacts from the young and sensitive. But she, too, is seduced by surface gloss and fails to go beyond the seductive beauty and cleverness of her narrative to achieve genuine emotion, let alone catharsis. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Innocence is a kind of Rosemary's Baby channeled through J.D. Salinger.” —Dennis Cooper, Village Voice

“Remarkable…A truly thrilling read.” —Newsday

“Borrowing classic ingredients from the genres of horror films and popular literature, Mendelsohn has concocted a coming-of-age tale about a Manhattan girl’s adolescence; this is a story of innocence, all right, but that nebulous concept today means finding your way in a media-saturated, sometimes dangerous culture.” —Boston Sunday Globe

“It's a graceful, delusionary teenage thriller unusually in touch with young characters' emotional workings, and, at the same time, a book by someone who clearly understands the tricks that make Stephen King's pages turn. In the novel, a teenaged girl named Beckett witnesses or imagines a series of murders and grows increasingly convinced that reality masks a demonic conspiracy by the adult world to destroy her innocence and corrupt everyone she trusts.” —Dennis Cooper, Village Voice

“Mendelohn is a smart, clever writer who has created a…novel that rivets with well-paced scenes, lyrical prose, and moments of profound insight. By playing with the worst stereotypes about women and giving eloquent nod to her cinematic forebears, Mendelsohn gives voice and image to a new generation’s female howl.” —The Providence Sunday Journal

“This dark and gothically twisted novel from the author of I Was Amelia Earhart gives us the city as a wicked stepmother’s poisonous fruit, its beauty baneful, its sweetness deadly…Mendelsohn’s genius lies in her ability to keep both the fantastical and the ordinary in focus at the same time…a brilliant balancing act.” —Newsday

About the Author

Jane Mendelsohn's first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, spent fourteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was published in fifteen languages.
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