My friend Terri wrote a scathing review of this book, and it acted on me like the classic spoiled milk skit: “Ugh, it’s terrible! Here, taste it!”* I was perversely curious, and after noticing that other reviews of the book seemed wildly polarized — love it/hate it, not much inbetween — I was downright intrigued.
I’m in the “love it” camp. I thought it was sharply observed, with snappy, vivid dialog. It’s frequently very funny (if in a sometimes uncomfortably dark or “OMG that’s SO inappropriate!” sort of way). I was reminded in various ways of other modern writers I like whose characters often make selfish and/or dangerous choices: Erich Puchner, Mary Gaitskill, Wells Tower, Sara Levine, Charlie Houston, and (perhaps especially) Lena Dunham. I can’t completely dispute Terri’s criticism that Kyle’s characters
have just given in to the worst of life in a defeatist way. They can’t get over anything, they can’t make anything of themselves, they are defined by their victimhood, they choose debasement, they are spiteful.
but it does seem a bit reductive. And if it describes the characters as they are seen in these stories, there are some indications that the characters don’t necessarily stay that way. They’re mostly college-aged, and maybe they’ll grow up a bit. But if they’re awful until they do, I found them awfully entertaining.
* To be fair, it’s not impossible that my own lambasting of Jonathan Tropper had a similar effect.