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In her debut novel, This American Life contributor O'Neill offers a narrator, Baby, coming of age in Montreal just before her 12th birthday. Her mother is long dead. Her father, Jules, is a junkie who shuttles her from crumbling hotels to rotting apartments, his short-term work or moneymaking schemes always undermined by his rage and paranoia. Baby tries to screen out the bad parts by hanging out at the community center and in other kids' apartments, by focusing on school when she can and by taking mushrooms and the like. (She finds sex mostly painful.) Stints in foster care, family services and juvenile detention ("nostalgia could kill you there") usually end in Jules's return and his increasingly erratic behavior. Baby's intelligence and self-awareness can't protect her from parental and kid-on-kid violence, or from the seductive power of being desired by Alphonse, a charismatic predator, on the one hand, and by Xavier, an idealistic classmate, on the other. When her lives collide, Baby faces choices she is not equipped to make. O'Neill's vivid prose owes a debt to Donna Tartt's The Little Friend; the plot has a staccato feel that's appropriate but that doesn't coalesce. Baby's precocious introspection, however, feels pitch perfect, and the book's final pages are tear-jerkingly effective. (Oct.)
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Baby's mother is dead; her hapless father is a heroin addict; home is a series of tiny, increasingly squalid apartments in Montreal's seedier precincts; her boyfriend is a pimp; and--about the time she turns 13--she becomes a prostitute. Not exactly the stuff of Sweet Valley High--more like the worst of the teen problem novels of the 1970s--on steroids! And, yet, first-time-author O'Neill somehow infuses her troubling story with a kind of heartbreaking innocence, thanks to her central conceit that Baby, her father (who was only 15 when she was born), and her friends are only pretending to be criminals to get by. The question of whether they will get by adds an element of suspense to this sad, almost wistful story, which occasionally strays dangerously close to sentimentality. O'Neill is a wonderful stylist, though, and the voice she has created for Baby is original and altogether captivating. Michael Cart
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The matter-of-fact manner in which Baby relates the events in her life and the turmoil that life with her father, Jules, brings her will make you squirm in your seat. Read morePublished 4 months ago by ReignbowGirl
what life is for some children, found it beautiful but also disturbing but this is what's going on for a lot of children today.Published 15 months ago by Wilfried goddyn
One is really drawn in, rooting for Baby, whose childhood is is not a land of comfort, magic or security. She survives because of her strength and instincts. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book held me in an emotionally grip like none I have ever read. It was both exhausting and uplifting at the same time. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Marty T
I bought this book after browsing at my local bookstore and seeing it was a recommendation from staff. Read morePublished 23 months ago by L G Rogers
Heather O'Neill's novel reads like a raw and grimy account of a girl, ironically named Baby, who grows up with no mother, an addict father, and an uncanny ability to survive even... Read morePublished on July 5 2012 by Reader Writer Runner
Looking at the world through the eyes of the narrator pulls you into a world of poverty, drug abuse and prostitution but what is weird is that it isn't a negative/heavy read. Read morePublished on May 9 2012 by Kel Jo
I read this book many years ago and recall liking it because it had such "taboo" topics. I think I fell in love with the idea that it was a book from a world not near my own, and... Read morePublished on April 26 2012 by Corinne Heart
Very interesting book. Heartwarming and easy to follow with well written characters. Pulls you in and won't let you go until the last page. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2012 by Gizmo