‘Young God’ book review
By Joshua Grant, Senior Columnist
I like the idea of a novel that doesn’t explain itself, where the narrative gets so lost in itself that it seems to have a life of its own. And I like author Katherine Faw Morris’ style. It’s gripping, quick, and stark, totally listless and nearly emotionless. I can sort of even believe that protagonist Nikki is a real person—a really messed up person.
I want to like Young God. I really do. But I can’t. It reminds me too much of the gritty pseudo-realism and morale panic-bait that drives the film Thirteen and the (totally fake) diary/novel Go Ask Alice. I’m almost certain it isn’t meant to be, but I can’t shake the taste.
Young God drops us into the head of young Nikki, who (we are informed by the jacket copy) is “the most determined young woman in the North Carolina hills.” I’m not sure if I see why. Mostly awful things happen to her as she digs herself deeper and deeper into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution following the senseless death of her mother (I think).
The narrative is pretty consistent in not showing us too much, which is pretty impressive. We get the sense that Nikki is not particularly smart or aware, and totally emotionally empty. This is rendered in a fashion that is both humourless and subtly judgmental, and my patience was stretched thin by its subtle moralism.
The good: Young God is stylistically interesting. The parts of the novel that aren’t plot driven, where our broken protagonist mopes around, are devastating, and I would read something else by Morris once she gets some perspective on the affected grit and tawdry thrills. Finally, Young God is a very quick read.