There aren’t a lot of great realistic novels out there for the older young adult set. Those 18-23 year-olds, what are they reading that is really about them?
Michelle Haimoff‘s debut paperback original is an absorbing, well-written novel about a newly independent adult in New York City in the months after 9/11. It goes beyond bar-hopping and shopping, although there’s plenty of that. The protagonist is living in her wealthy parent’s Fifth Avenue apartment while she tries to find a job and find some direction for her life.
Haimoff is featured on Figment.com right now, where her gift for dialog is the inspiration for a writing contest. She introduces a few of the themes in her novel as “dealing with divorced parents, wanting to marry someone who is culturally similar, stressing out about not having a job after college.” Certainly the first and last are things that many high school students are already facing or contemplating.
Adult/High School–Haimoff’s assured debut is a melancholy paean to New York City before 9/11 and as it was in the immediate aftermath, when even New Yorkers looked up and around and at one another. Hailey, a 23-year-old unhappy child of divorce and immense privilege, narrates this slightly episodic tale of fear and loss as she job hunts, bar hops, and spends time with friends (the dialogue is pitch perfect). The focus here is not the loss of lives on 9/11 but on the loss of purpose and safety that day precipitated, enhanced by the simple truth that even without it, being 20-something, unemployed, and caught between childhood and adulthood is a pretty miserable set of circumstances. Hailey has focused her energy on Brenner, perfect Princeton grad (actually a douchebag), with whom she fantasizes a future of married security. But even as she longs for Brenner, she falls for Adrian, a genuine and genuinely likable middle-class boy from Pennsylvania. Hailey’s sadness despite all the advantages of her life should make her unlikable, but she recognizes this, which makes her sympathetic. There are wink and nod moments foreshadowing the present that distract from an otherwise thoughtful and compelling read, but for sophisticated teen readers whose childhoods were shadowed by 9/11 just as Hailey’s emerging adulthood is, the book will strike a chord. Give it to those who enjoyed Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero (S&S, 1985), which is referenced within the text, or even former “Gossip Girl” fans ready for the real thing.–Karyn N. Silverman, LREI (Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School), New York City