Grosse Pointe Girl
Sarah Grace McCandless
(Heavy Flow/Future Tense Books)

I find it difficult to turn down stories of adolescence. Perhaps it's the catharsis of someone else knowing the angst I knew, of seeing a fictional character enter the stage of life where he or she can no longer falsify innocence by wiping away hard lessons with quick bouts of imagination. Thankfully for teen junkies like me, first-time authors seem to return to the hormonal river of the high schools and bring back fresh drinks time and again.

Grosse Pointe Girl is a slender selection of writings by Sarah Grace McCandless, a native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, who now plugs her laptop into Portland electricity. McCandless has crafted a book of sharply honed memories.

The writing matches the pace of adolescent life, as the author's approach changes from section to section. Here she adopts a second-person narrative, implicating you in her mistakes, making you an active participant ("When you wake up, you spend the next four years mumbling an occasional 'Bitch' to each other as you pass in the hallways--You never admit that you were wrong and become familiar with regret."); there she switches to free-verse poetry, the carefully chosen line break emphasizing the breaking of one's heart when the cherished boy becomes just another friend ("And as quickly as we come together,/ we will separate/ before anyone sees us holding on").

There is also an adult world--cold, imposing, indifferent. Parents and teachers don't seem to notice the social embarrassment they enforce. Not a single one of the clucking-tongued country-club mothers would want to wear a bathing suit with their size printed on it, but they have no problem with that being the required uniform in gym class. In a turn that's rare for the adolescent memoir, McCandless tacks on an epilogue. Ten years down the line, she returns to school for her first reunion and sees the telltale signs of lost promises--wrinkles on the face, business cards, too much alcohol.

Where once we felt we couldn't get here from there, we now wonder how we made the journey so fast. As the first entry for the new Heavy Flow label (an imprint of Future Tense Books devoted to female visions), Grosse Pointe Girl establishes a strong standard.