My thanks to Nikki Griffiths at Melville House for the ARC copy of Juliet the Maniac.
This is the type of book that, were I not running this book blog, I most likely would never have found, let alone chosen to read. However, when I was offered the opportunity to read it, there was something about the synopsis that appealed to me. I’m so glad I listened to that ‘something’!
I had initial misgivings when I started to read, but I very quickly found myself drawn in. The subject is dark but incredibly powerful, and the writing is confident and assured; from a literary point of view there were sections of writing which were just brilliant (the first paragraph of the prologue being the first!). Right from the off the narrative is focused wholly on Juliet, offering strong imagery which immediately creates a sense of isolation and the feeling of her as the ‘other’. The short chapter lengths are really appealing and give an episodic feel to her story. It’s choppy; but then this reflects the mindset of Juliet, as well as making it easy to devour!
One of the things I loved most was the insertion of ‘reality’ throughout by way of copies of letters and notes, pictures, patient notes, etc. When reading a book, it’s all too easy to forget, in cases such as these, that the words are attached to the life of person who has lived and breathed this very situation. These additions for me really added gravitas to the words on the page.
There is an honesty throughout which is so raw, that at times you feel like an intruder reading a person’s innermost thoughts. It is without doubt the darkest novel I’ve read this year, but it is also so very readable. From beginning to end it held my attention, taking me on an emotional but thought-provoking ride. Juliet Escoria is an author I want to read more of in the future.
It’s 1997, and 14-year-old Juliet has it pretty good. But over the course of the next two years, she rapidly begins to unravel, finding herself in a downward trajectory of mental illness and self-destruction that eventually leads to a “therapeutic boarding school” in rural Oregan.
From there, deep in the woods of the Northwest, comes an explosive portrayal of teenage life from the perspective of The Bad Friend, and a poignant reflection that refuses the traditional arc. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life, Juliet the Maniac offers no clear answers, no definitive finish line, just the wise acceptance of the challenges ahead. This punchy debut marks the breakout of a bold and singular young writer.
About the Author
Juliet Escoria is the author of the poetry collection Witch Hunt (Lazy Fascist Press, 2016) and the story collection Black Cloud (CCM/Emily Books, 2014). Her writing can be found in places like Lenny, Catapult, VICE, Prelude, Dazed and Hobart. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, the writer Scott McClanahan.