Teenage fiction

7th July 2000 at 01:00
YOUNG AMERICANS. By Jeff Gomez. Scholastic Press, pound;5.99

This deceptively deep "summer awakening" novel offers food for thought to readers contemplating the seemingly endless holidays ahead. The tale gets under the skin of its 14-year-old hero, whose search for acceptance leads him to make some wrong decisions.

If Perry had read Catcher in the Rye, he would probably try to be Holden Caulfield. But he doesn't read much, leaves the pages of his journal blank although he likes carrying it about, and adopts a cynicism beyond his years due to his mother's serial marriages and serial house moves, which make Perry a permanent new kid on the block.

Their latet home is Walther, New York, a small town named after the transcendentalist poet Alec Walther, a contemporary of Thoreau. Walther's statue in the main square symbolises the self-knowledge that eludes Perry as he falls in love with bright spark Donna (although he is already dangerously smitten with his sister-in-law) and puts the relationship at risk through his association with Carter, a deluded rich boy.

Walther is stuck in a time-warp: only the occasional reference reminds us that the novel is not set in the 1950s. But Perry's sample of his yuppie brother's lifestyle in Manhattan is up to date, and his troubles are timeless.

GERALDINE BRENNAN


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