Nikki is thirteen years old. She has big plans. Starting with the unexpected death of her mother, Nikki begins to pursue her father’s faltering drug empire – as under no circumstances does she intend to end up back in the group home. As she fumbles and falters through the maze of drugs in North Carolina hill country, she refuses to be limited by what society thinks a little girl should do – if she dresses provocatively then she damn sure wants men to want to fuck her. As the reader follow Nikki’s descent into criminality and rebellion, we watch as she is easily swayed by the world she wants to control.
This is not an easy or pleasant read and, to be honest, I feel like gritty hillbilly noir is becoming a “thing” (True Detective, anyone?). I’m not complaining, by any means, but as with anything too much of the same thing becomes monotonous. Thankfully, this debut novel is just different enough to warrant notice.
To begin with, the prose is stripped down to a bare minimum. There are no extra words; in fact there are chapters that consist of a only a few words. While editing, Morris took a novel that was originally 100,000 words and pared it down to only 22,000. It’s stylish, provocative, and terse – it’s also highly effective. It felt fresh and vivid. But where the novel really shines is in its sense of place. The impoverished hills of North Carolina sound harrowing (and real) – and with the introduction of a heroine like Nikki, Morris does nothing to improve their image. Minimal and tense, I didn’t like it by any means, but Young God is a solid entry into the grit-lit southern noir genre. Recommended for fans of Frank Bill, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Daniel Woodrell. I will certainly look for whatever Katherine Faw Morris does next.
Food references are few and far between in this one (as one would expect about an aspiring teenage drug lord), my favorite might be the bag of potato chips in the vegetable crisper. Pair this one with homemade potato chips baked with a hint of olive oil + parmesan cheese, herb, and garlic dip.
Do you ever read books that stretch the boundaries of what you’re comfortable with (or enjoy books that cannot be described as…enjoyable)? And tell me, how many of you loved True Detective?
*I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.