Serious Girls


REVIEW by Willard Manus

SERIOUS GIRLS is a coming of age story about two precocious 16-year-old girls, Maya and Roe, who meet at an East Coast boarding school and become best friends, so tuned to each other that they could almost be twins. The author, Maxinne Swann, who won various prizes for her 1997 short story, Flower Children, gives what could have been a familiar narrative a fresh, deft spin thanks to her way with words, mood and characterization. There is no moralizing here, no explaining, just showing--in detail after detail--how adolescents move from childhood into adulthood, opening themselves like flowers to the bright and dark sides of life.

Maya and Roe's naive but touching (and often painful) quest to "experience things" leads them into some daring experiments with liquor, cigarettes, men and sex, with near-disastrous results. They both manage to survive brushes with madness and violence, not only the wiser for it but determined to not only experience life but enjoy it next time around.

"Can we do both?" one asks the other. "I don't see why we shouldn't try" comes the answer. (Picador, $12.95 ppbk).