book cover
Emily Mead
November 14, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Maxine Swann’s promising debut, Serious Girls, is a delicate, clear-eyed distillation of teenage girls’ greatest concerns: identity, authenticity, and sexual power. Maya and Roe, 16-year-old oddballs in their first year at a Northeastern boarding school, spend most of their time together browsing in a local thrift store and wondering ”What makes a person a person?” They waver between preternatural poise and crippling self-doubt as narrator Maya takes illicit weekend trips to New York City to be with a man twice her age and Roe gets entangled with a violent-tempered local kid. Despite some bumpy transitions — like Maya’s abrupt decision to run off for the summer with her boyfriend — ”Girls” palpably evokes the frustration and anxiety of growing up.

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