Friday, June 12, 2009

Inkwell Michelle's 30 Second Book Review

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth
by Xiaolu Guo
In search of something more than a monotonous existence, seventeen year old Fenfang leaves her family and their provincial way of life for the seething city of Beijing. There, she tries to satisfy her insatiable hunger with instant noodles, Western literature, hot coffee, and movies, but her resigned acceptance and blank face fail to cover her longing and vulnerability. Finally, after four lost years, Fenfeng begins to feel like her life has begun. She’s twenty-one, has found work as a movie extra, and believes this will be the catalyst for great changes in her life.

The story is told in twenty brief chapters brimming with deadpan humor and shining with Fenfeng’s resiliency amidst squalor and failed relationships. Xiaolu Guo writes short, sharp prose that captures the hard edge of youthful angst. Her infectious novel is written with an authentic and idiosyncratic voice that brings to mind the way Holden Caulfield spoke to disaffected youth. With a fierce honesty, Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth will transfix and transport you as Fenfeng comes of age and finds her place.

An excerpt:
“My youth began when I was twenty-one. At least, that’s when I decided it began. That was when I started to think that all those shiny things in life—some of them might possibly be for me. If you think twenty-one sounds a bit late for youth to start, just think about the average Chinese peasant, who leaps straight from childhood to middle age with nothing in between. If I was going to miss out on anything, it was middle age. Be young or die. That was my plan.”