Dylan Landis offers a novel in 14 connected stories that spans 10 years, beginning with the title character, Rainey Royal at 14 years old. It is set in the 1970’s New York City of Landis’s own adolescence.
This book explores teenage sexuality, and it can be dark. Rainey is abused by her father’s best friend, and she also uses her beauty and sexuality to get what she wants. She is victim and bully, and she lacks the adult role model she needs. Her father does nothing to protect her.
Like last Monday’s featured books, How to Build a Girl and Not that Kind of Girl, this is most likely to be enjoyed by older teens. I’m sorry I haven’t read this one yet, because I get the feeling that there could be some interesting parallels between Rainey and Dolly, although their goals and methods seems quite different. Add it to the pile!
LANDIS, Dylan. Rainey Royal. 246p. Soho Pr. Sept. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781616954529. LC 2014009580.
Rainy Royal is the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl—her coolness directly in proportion to the damage done to her. She says cutting things to teachers and wears amazing handmade clothes like armor against her peers. But the dysfunction in her family is most definitely not fabulous. Only her best friend Tina knows what is really going on behind the doors of her townhouse in Greenwich Village: Rainey’s father may be a famous jazz musician but he lets young, beautiful musical acolytes crash in Rainey’s room and steal her clothes; his best friend, Gordy, visits her room at night to give backrubs and stroke her hair; and her mother has fled to an ashram leaving behind a broken sewing machine and useless advice about love. Rainey Royal follows a beautiful, damaged girl from her crumbling townhouse in the twilight of Free Love and into the seediness that was 1970s New York City. Landis takes real risks in presenting Rainey’s story, including allowing her two best friends their own chapters. The unique structure of the book makes for a full, rich, coming-of-age story. Teens who love Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye will be drawn to Rainey Royal and her jaundiced view of the world, but she holds equal appeal for “Gossip Girl” (Little, Brown) fans, as she is the ultimate beautiful, wise-beyond-her-years, mean girl.—Meghan Cirrito, Brooklyn Public Library, NY