In brief: Jena used to be a violinist. A child prodigy in fact. Now she’s part of the orchestra, focused on hook ups and the past. But meeting Mark and going to New York will have a profound change on her…
The good: Brutally honest, sad and happy.
The not-so-good: Mark. Should I like him or not?
Why I chose it: Sounded original and fascinating (which it was). Thanks Allen & Unwin for the copy.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Setting: Sydney, Australia & New York City
Rating: 9 out of 10
Sometimes a book comes along that is so refreshing that you fall for it hook, line and sinker. A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing is one of those reads. It’s not a happy book, but it’s realistic. This is how real people think and act – making bad decisions, failing to make decisions and just sort of wandering around trying to find what happens in the movies and failing.
Jena Lin is someone who is meant to know a bit about failure. A child prodigy violinist, she was travelling the world giving concerts before she hit her teens. Then came the meltdown. But was it due to overwork? Or was it an act of teenage rebellion? Jena gave up the violin, only to replace it with sex. Both gave her attention; both gave her a feeling of accomplishment. Now in her twenties, Jena is a casual with the Sydney Symphony orchestra (part of the crew, rather than the star attraction). She has a number of men available for hook ups. She floats around relatively aimlessly, lonely but for drinking, hook-ups and catchups with her few friends. Then she has a fight with her best friend and meets Mark, an older figure with a girlfriend. But Jena just can’t keep away from him and his fetishes for Asian girls and other things. When she is offered an internship in New York, it’s kind of like revisiting an old favourite friend. But America as an adult is lonely too, and frightening as politics change. Yet Jena finds more than just hook-ups, she finds somewhere where she feels more settled. But is it forever?
A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing is bold and in your face. Yes, there is a lot of sex. But it fits right in with what the reader knows about Jena’s character, her loneliness and her loss of identity since she left centre stage. Jena is far from apologetic; she screws up multiple times. She doesn’t always do the right thing either, but that is part of what makes the book so readable. Jena is not so much likeable as relatable. She deals with a lot of things – ‘failed’ fame (when people recognise her, they are quick to tell her she should be in the spotlight), feeling inadequate compared to her ‘gorgeous’ sister, carrying the weight of her parents’ infidelity, casual racism and sexism. Jena knows she does things that are hurtful to herself and others. But does she care? Not always.
Mark was…strange. It was easy enough to see the allure of him (older, important and for Jena, forbidden). Yet for me as the reader, he seemed to get creepier as the plot continued with his thoughts and actions. His declaration at the end was odd and just made him seem pathetic in my opinion – now too old and not important. As for the other characters, they were quirky (apart from Banks, who seemed to be the most normal person in Jena’s life) and filled colour and detail into Jena’s life, which is fairly dull and colourless. The plot wasn’t particularly fast moving, but this emphasised Jena’s lack of direction.
Overall, this is a fantastic debut capturing feelings of intense loneliness with the struggle in your twenties to find out who you are.