Michelle Tea,
Rose of No Man's Land
(MacAdam Cage, 2006)

Think of the whimsy and the magical alignment of lost souls that one might find in a Francesca Lia Block book. Toss in some dark twists a la Chuck Palahniuk or David Lynch. Bring in an innocent yet observant (and witty!) narrative voice like that in Speak or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and you arrive at a hint of Rose of No Man's Land.

Don't infer that it is formulaic, or that it can be strictly compared to any one of these books. I was swept away by this novel, and every time I had a handle on what it was about, the narrator's life would wrest out of her control and the direction of the story would change.

Our 14-year-old narrator Trisha is a loner, happy to wear the same beat-up oversized t-shirt all summer. Her mom hasn't left the couch in years as she self-diagnoses herself with infections, with autism, with Tourette's and any number of other TV news topics-of-the-moment. Mom's loser boyfriend Donnie spends his days working on his car, storing merchandise that fell off a truck in Trisha's bedroom and letting Trisha steal his lukewarm beers when she needs to escape from life. Trisha's older sister, currently filming herself to audition for The Real World, makes Trisha her new project and transforms her into someone who can get a job at the hottest, trendiest store in the mall.

Rose of No Man's Land is the story of Trisha and Rose, who meet at the mall. Rose is a whirlwind of activity who shoplifts, steals, hitchhikes and does whatever comes to mind in the moment. The third member of the action is absent throughout the entire novel, but central to the plot. Kim Porciatti, a girl high above Trisha's social strata, is all the buzz in town because she tried to kill herself. It is Kim's absence that allows Trisha to have a trendy mall job, and it is Kim's cell phone callers who open up a world of adventure for the bored and listless Trisha and Rose.

If you are ready to handle an unforgettable night of underage alcohol, destruction, drugs, friendship, sexuality, love and tattoos that will change Trisha forever, pick up Rose of No Man's Land. Trisha's narration is poignant and the action is unpredictable, yet believable. Any Boston native will recognize the slang, customs, and Route 1 neon hang-outs that the story of Trisha and Rose is set in.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
1 July 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.