Feature

Novel of the week: Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Hassman’s fresh and funny protagonist is a denizen of a Reno, Nevada, trailer park and a descendant of a line of unwed teenage mothers.

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24)

Tupelo Hassman’s debut features a young protagonist with a voice “so fresh, original, and funny, you’ll be in awe,” said Mameve Medwed in The Boston Globe. Rory Dawn Hendrix is a denizen of a Reno, Nev., trailer park and a descendant of a line of unwed teenage mothers. Handicapped by a lack of role models and blessed with sharp intelligence, Rory carries a dog-eared library copy of the Girl Scout Handbook as her guide to surviving predatory men, her mother’s alcohol-fueled blackouts, and the general crush of low expectations. “This is somewhat careworn coming-of-age material,” and Hassman too often has Rory speak to us in “the jittery run-on sentences of a nervous child,” said Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal. But the character elsewhere wins us over with her precocious poise and sharply articulated insights. As with many other debut novels, “you accept a young writer’s inexpert mechanics in exchange for uncut energy and crackling intelligence.” With Girlchild, “it’s a deal worth making.”

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