Published: 1998 by Grove Press
Edition: Kindle ebook
Genre: Coming of age, Young Adult, Contemporary
A Certain Age is the harrowing and at points vulgar story of a young girl who makes all the wrong decisions. Falling for the wrong people and rebelling against her hippie parents she is a child living as an adult.
I’ve had this book on my to be read list for years, it was a suggested title because I had read Lolita. I can see the idea that this is a similar book, a young girl swept up into a romance with a truly unsuitable older man. The unnamed girl in this book is the teenage girl that exists in so many fictional works that I’ve yet to ever meet. She is sexually open and uses it as a weapon to get her immature and violent boyfriend to like her.
The vision of sex in this book by the main character is just plain sad. She never really enjoys the sexual acts she has and endures being humiliated by her partners. There is no positive narrative to having sex or being close to someone, it is purely used in her world to shut people up and get people to like her. I know not all books are ‘feel good’ idealistic visions of the world but there is not even a glimmer of hope or a wish for anything better than she has.
Her parents are one of the most bizarre aspects to the book. They are both ex-hippies and are simultaneously overbearing yet disconnected from their children. They fight at every occasion and most of the dialogue in the book are these bickering adults. After reading a few fights you get bored with the back and forth, just wishing the story would skip over these parts and get back to some sort of plot.
The romance is this book can barely be called romance. The girl very quickly falls for a man who works in a store she buys her 14th birthday present from. There is never any charm to this man, he never really treats her well or sweeps her off her feet. He just happens to be slightly better than the violent schoolboy she was with at the time. Both of these males treat her badly, never respecting her as a person and both abusing her in different ways.
No doubt the most disturbing thing in this book is the reaction from the parents when she says she is dating a man thirteen years her senior. Her mother is slightly concerned for a few moments then seems to be more interested in what he is like rather than the fact he’s a paedophile. Her father has more of a reaction but in the end even he comes around to he idea of her having underage relations.
If you enjoy shock fiction I suppose this is something you might be into, a cross between the film Thirteen, Lolita and Trainspotting. Unfortunately for me I pressed all the wrong buttons and left me shocked on how bad it was.