September Girls
by Madison, Bennett

Vacationing in a sleepy beach town for the summer, Sam is pursued by hordes of blonde girls before falling in love with the unusual DeeDee, who compels him to uncover secrets about the community's ocean-dwelling inhabitants.

*Starred Review* Last winter, Sam's mother ran away into "something called Women's Land," leaving his father first catatonic, then weirdly proactive and involved in Sam's life. When Sam's brother returns from college, their father takes them to a beach town that appears to be run by beautiful blonde young women, whose accents are unplaceable and exotic. These Girls (with a capital G) seem bound by unknowable rules. Out of all these mysterious women, Sam finds DeeDee, who, like him, understands betrayal and parental abandonment but on a level that even he can't fathom. Split between Sam's observations of the events and passages from the Girls' collective attempts to explain their dramatic and confused origin ("First we are alone. We're not sure how we find one another, but we do. Then we are still alone, but in the way sardines are alone."), Madison's novel offers up a feast of mythology and human nature. The author nimbly exercises Sam's running-monologue narration, with raunchy, sarcastic sentences and oddly vulnerable bro-speak weave with ethereal, spellbinding descriptions of love, scenery, or epiphany. This command of language, both informal and beautiful, lifts the work from a basic boy-meets-fantastical creature tale to something both familiar and tragically moving. This isn't just a supernatural beach read; it's a rare and lovely novel, deserving of attention from discriminating readers. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

A meditation on manhood takes a turn into magical realism in this mesmerizing novel. Sam, his father and his older brother are all coping-with varying degrees of success; Sam's coping includes whiskey and frozen pizza-with Sam's mother's departure for Women's Land. In an attempt to pull things together, his dad decides they will spend the summer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Prickly yet lethargic, 17-year-old Sam gradually becomes intrigued by the mysterious, beautiful blonde girls who work at the hotels and restaurants there. Interspersed throughout Sam's slightly sarcastic first-person narration are short, haunting prose poems from these sisters, who can't swim though they come from the ocean and whose mother is the Deepness and whose father is the Endlessness. The girls seem to reinvent themselves as needed, much as they reinvent the island where they live, adding to the air of mystery. The brothers' parents are vividly portrayed, particularly the once-frumpy mother who left their father in a "swamp of discontent"-which turns into a complete abandonment of his job and their usual life. The heart of the story centers on Sam's gradual unfurling into a less brittle, kinder and more thoughtful youth. The writing, though realistically laced with the F-word and references to smoking and drinking, has a curiously appealing distance from the ordinary but doesn't abandon it altogether. A not-mermaid story for boys. (Magical realism. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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