Katherine Faw Morris, 'Young God'

· Tuesday August 5, 2014

In the opening pages of Young God, thirteen-year-old Nikki jumps off a cliff into a pool of water then watches her Mum die attempting the same feat. By the second chapter, she's had sex with her boyfriend, stolen his car and drugs, and moved in with her dad, a crackhead pimp who lives in a trailer in North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains. Along the way she learns important life lessons such as “smoking heroin's harder than it looks”. Nikki is growing up fast.

Katherine Faw Morris' debut has been criticised for its violence, bleakness and anti-heroine, whose detached numbness lacks any real emotional pull. It is also extremely stylised. Blunt prose is stripped back with scenes presented as brief vignettes, often just a paragraph or two, on an otherwise blank page. Characters are suggested rather than formed and while the technique is said to match the fast world Nikki finds herself trying to navigate, it also gives the book a feeling of incompleteness.

Sex, drugs, dirty fingernails and youth, at times Young God feels like the literary equivalent of a Ryan McGinley photoshoot or a Sky Ferreira music video, but there's no doubting Faw Morris is a talented writer. Too bad the stylised 'brashness' gets in the way of the story.