Summary and book reviews of Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn

Innocence

A Novel

by Jane Mendelsohn

Innocence
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2000, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2001, 208 pages

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Book Summary

The acclaimed author of I Was Amelia Earhart returns with a modern gothic tale about a New York schoolgirl.

An electrifying follow-up to her bestselling I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn's Innocence is a modern gothic coming-of-age story, a devastating X ray of American culture, and a piercing exploration of the inner life of a teenage girl growing up in New York City. Narrated with incisive wit by fourteen-year-old Becket, the novel traces her relationship with her widowed father, her encounters with the intimidating Beautiful Girls at school, her attraction to the mysterious and dangerous school nurse, her attachment to the raffish Tobey, and a series of devastating nightmares that threaten Becket's life as she moves from girl to woman.

Mendelsohn has written an allegory about the precarious state of the American teenager in a culture that sucks the life force out of its young, who are nurtured by movies and fantasy and narcissism rather than by values such as honesty or love. This is a world as startlingly original and hauntingly familiar as our dreams, where the line between fantasy and reality, between sanity and insanity, is razor-thin. Playful, frightening, profound, and gripping, Innocence is that rare thing-a page-turner with the depth of poetry and the immediacy of cinema.

"Mendelsohn is an exquisite crafter of prose.... Brilliant ...is not too strong a word."-Newark Star-Ledger

1

They were all dead. I was the only one left.

They'd done something awful with a pink plastic razor, two of them on the bed and one on the floor. The music was still lapping on the player. I think I mouthed the words.

Outside, it was one of those sunsets that nobody looks at, a red and orange and purple massacre, spilling its guts out above the city.

I don't understand why nobody notices. Those sunsets, they bleed all over.

I ran. I ran as fast as I could through the park as the sun set. First the sky turned gray, like smudged newsprint-there seemed to be words up there-and then it all faded to blue. The leaves on the trees went from green to purple. The street lamps turned on. As I ran out of the park behind the museum, night fell. I could hear it. Everything became quieter. The cabs stopped honking and slid by with their secret passengers. Lights arrived in the buildings like stars. Traffic moved in one wave downtown. It was Friday night. The sky went ...

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Introduction

An electrifying follow-up to her bestselling I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn's Innocence is a modern gothic coming-of-age story, a devastating x-ray of American culture, and a piercing exploration of the inner life of a teenage girl growing up in New York City. Narrated with incisive wit by fourteen-year-old Becket, the novel traces her relationship with her widowed father, her encounters with the intimidating Beautiful Girls at school, her attraction to the mysterious and dangerous school nurse, her attachment to the raffish Tobey, and a series of devastating nightmares that threaten Becket's life as she moves from girl to woman.

Mendelsohn has written an allegory about the precarious state of the ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Mendelsohn's novels, including I Was Ame lia Earhart (1996), are distinguished by their vivid visualizations of mental states and delight in confusing the imagined with the real. Here she depicts the convulsive coming-of-age of a privileged New York teenager called Beckett, whose mother was killed by a drunk driver. Her father enrolls her in a fancy private school infamous for student suicides, then he falls in love with Pamela, the sexy school nurse. Beckett's first menstrual period hits her as hard as the vehicle that killed her mother, and once her father and Pamela decide to get married, her world turns nightmarish. Her stepmother-to-be morphs into a blood-sucking monster right out of a B horror movie, and Beckett, who sees herself reflected everywhere she looks, from mirrors to television and computer screens, fears for her life. Mendelsohn uses this obsession with appearance to dramatize the toll our image-saturated culture exacts from the young and sensitive. But she, too, is seduced by surface gloss and fails to go beyond the seductive beauty and cleverness of her narrative to achieve genuine emotion, let alone catharsis.

Kirkus Reviews

Must reading for anybody who thinks teenagers today have gotten bloated with entitlement: a scarlet will-o'-the-wisp fantasy in which adults and adulthood aren't stupid stiffs but agents of unimaginable evil.

Library Journal - D Robin Nesbitt

The book offers an interesting spin on the traditional coming-of-age story as it keeps the reader wondering, Is this fantasy or is this reality? Suitable for adults, this second novel by the author of I Was Amelia Earhart might also appeal to a mature young adult reader.

Reader Reviews

Calliegh James

Exceptional Horror
I loved it. My heart was pounding every second of it! Mendelsohn really knows how to write! I hope that everyone with the heart to stand it, should definitely enjoy this classic work of art!

Danielle

At first I was sure this would be another uncomfortably-unreal teen sob story. But for some reason it drug me into it and I couldn't stop reading it. It has been a while since I have enjoyed or related to a book like I did "Innocence". ...   Read More

Lauren Hay

I finished this book in four hours. It was extreemly catchy and drew me in with a magnetic force. I must say that at the end, I was perhaps a little confused, for Beckett's nightmares, hillucinations, or fantasies baffled and bemused me. Overall, I'm...   Read More

Lee Ann Gilmore

I began reading this book late one night before bed and after what seemed like minutes turned into hours. I was mesmerized by the way the book was written, it pulled me in and kept me interested from one page to the next. I finished the book in 2 ...   Read More

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