Monday, December 11, 2006

Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn, by Sarah Miller

Gideon comes to prep school and falls in with a pair of seasoned potheads, who spend their day getting high and scamming on girls. Gideon starts off awkward, but by mid-semester he's gaining confidence, but he's still undecided about whether to pursue exotic and flirty Pilar or sweet Molly. Given the choice, he'd rather chase Pilar, but his roommates have set up a bet for him to lose his virginity to Molly. So far, so very cliche. We have all the usual trappings of the clueless administrators and the unsupervised horney teens, except for one very important twist. The narrator, a girl, is somehow inside Gideon's head and knows everything that he's thinking; and so gives us some very funny commentary on Gideon's understandings/misunderstandings about the opposite sex. And, somewhat more mysteriously, she's also one of the girls in the story, but we don't find out who until the very end.

It's a very clever plot device, both interesting because we spend the story wondering who she is, and also fun because of the commentary she makes about the boys. I wanted very much to decry the boys as "unrealistic" mostly because they are portrayed as such shallow creeps, but I'll give Miller points for getting "boy" almost right (and probably better than most male writers could do). And I'll also give her points for getting the girls mostly right as well. But there are times when she veers more towards stereotypes and loses some of that realism. Still, this is pretty amazing for a first novel.

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