American Music

RIVERHEAD 2001




INNOCENCE

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 startlingly 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.

PRAISE and REVIEWS

“Innocence is a kind of Rosemary’s Baby channeled through J.D. Salinger….It’s a graceful, delusionary teenage thriller unusually in touch with young character’s emotional workings, and, at the same time, a book by someone who clearly understands the tricks that make Stephen King’s pages turn.”
—Dennis Cooper, The Village Voice

“Sexy, sinister magic . . .this dark and gothically twisted novel 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, a truly thrilling read…. Remarkable.”
Newsday
read full review

‘Jane Mendelsohn plays it fast and loose with reality . . . Innocence is fast-edged and jagged . . . daring and beautiful language. . . an important book.”
The Oregonian

“Combining a savvy intelligence with lyrical prose . . .Mendelsohn has concocted a coming-of-age tale about a Manhattan girl’s adolescence; this is the story of innocence, all right, but that nebulous concept today means finding your way in a media-saturated, sometimes dangerous culture.”
USA Today
read full review

 
“Invoking a battery of analogues favoring the pop-culture heroines of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Lolita, and Halloween, Mendelsohn isolates her plucky heroine so fearfully via sparse paragraphs and an underpeopled world that even the most preposterous threats leap out of the movie frame to fuel a shriek of pure paranoia. Must reading for anybody who thinks teenagers today have gotten bloated with entitlement: a scarlet will-o’-the-wisp fantasy in which adults and adulthood aren’t stupid stiffs but agents of unimaginable evil.”
Kirkus Reviews
read full review


 
“A brilliant gothic tale… Mendelsohn’s novel is a harrowing cry of anguish, the siren song of a generation that believes contiunuing to live beyond one’s teens is a matter of ambiguous choice.”
The Baltimore Sun 
read full review

“Laconic and edgy and begrudgingly tragic…the novel is onto itself as well as the formulas it exposes, offering a darkly appealing glance at popular culture and modern urban mayhem. Like Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City, Mendelsohn’s story muffles its death and sorrow in terminal irony, though the trait is less irritating than it might be because Innocence doesn’t try to be more than it is.”
The Boston Sunday Globe
read full review

“Mendelsohn [is] an exquisite crafter of prose…. Brilliant…is not too strong a word to describe what Mendelsohn has done…. Her novel will hold you spellbound.”
Newark Sunday Star-Ledger

“Mendelsohn 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

“Innocence is an engrossing, and disturbing, account of its protagonist’s quest to uncover the truth about herself and the world around her.”
The Denver Post
read full review

“[Mendelsohn] cooks up a stew of paranoia and gothic fantasy that makes for a surprisingly unique mystery novel. Told in spare, melodramatic vignettes, the book has elements of both an epic poem and a horror-film screenplay…”
—Janet Steen, Time Out New York