Luke Geddes' photo looks like he is an early to middle aged teenager, but writing of this class would indicate that pictures can be deceiving. If he is indeed a teenager the watch out world: this new author has a style that makes most other contemporary writers seem pedestrian. Just pick up the book and read a story or two (you'll then of course be stuck with the passion to finish the whole book!) and a light comes on. Luke Geddes is good and maybe even great.
While there are many aspects of the stories in this collection that pluck the imagination, the very fact that he tells them all form the point of view of a girl gives him an opportunity to make his wild tales even more different. In his mindset for the narrator of each of these strange, at times pathetic, at times courageous girls' tales he ventures into that land of what seems to be the 1950s and 1960s - pop culture time, when meaningful events are focused on `things', especially those insignificant (in retrospect) topics such as comic book heroes, pimply faced distortions of self perception, keeping up with the dating and physical trends, judging life by who notices you...all the things that now we look back and with embarrassment acknowledge as having in some way affected us all.
The magical teenage princess of the title (though mentioned in one particular story) is the mannequin girl that populates each of these stories, each time by a different persona and name, but you get the idea. And as aw-shucks and off the wall as many of these girls who share with us are, every story has real live blood running through the veins of ht e characters. It is as though Luke Geddes at first decided to throw parodies our way, then felt sorry or the pathetic lives he was describing and gave each of his lead girls a dollop of sensitive credibility.
For example, in `Surfer Girl' we meet a skinny, short unattractive girl who wants to learn to surf - a chance to be noticed with the boys at the beach - especially the ever-present Big Kahuna who snorts his boogers. Geddes drifts his story between the painful learning about surfing and the affiliated extended physical abuse with bits and pieces of the girl's accidental drowning. Yet all the while the surfer girl's father (her mother died giving birth to the surfer girl) attempts to be a parent, gives her a surfboard, and eyes candy stripers. In Geddes' language `At some point in the future, the surfer girl's father will marry the candy striper, though she is barely a year or two older than his daughter upon death. But what is age? What is time but the tide, a drift of memories bobbing along the surface in disarray, one wave crashing upon another?' And in another story called `Habit Patterns' Geddes creates tow characters - the perfectly groomed and attractive and successful Helen and the celluloid Barbara (`Look in the mirror, Barbara, and think about what's wrong with you. It's your habit patterns. They need to change. Clean your face with soap and water every night. Bathe and wash your hair at least once a week. Brush your teeth three times a day. Be kind to your mother and father. Be more ladylike. Be more like Helen.'
Where all of this sensitivity to teenage angst comes from is something that hits us with the fact that Luke Geddes is, quite simply, a conjurer. He has created in this collection of stories a mix of whimsy and of sensitivity that as well as any writer describes the mind of a teenager. Feels a bit like JD Salinger, but more like Luke Geddes. He deserves attention. And whether or not you catch him at this nascent point in his apparent ascent is a judgment call. Advice? Read him. Grady Harp, July 12