New York Times bestselling author Tom Perrotta's first book is "more powerful than any coming-of-age novel" —The Washington Post
Bad Haircut explores the themes that have fascinated Perrotta throughout his career: suburban rituals and mores; sports and religion; the cheerful cheesiness of American consumer life; public tests of manliness; and the moral dilemmas faced by ordinary people, parents, and teenagers alike. Perrotta has continued to explore these subjects in novels from Election to The Abstinence Teacher.
The ten rich stories here are linked by a single protagonist: Buddy, an adolescent suburban New Jersey boy who is truly seeing his world for the first time and already finding it both mysterious and lacking. Whether he's out on a Boy Scout trip with his mother and discovering that his mother actually knows—and has a history with—the man inside the battered foam hot dog costume in "The Weiner Man", feeling the first glimmer that sex might actually be possible for him in "Thirteen", or finding himself swept along on a prank gone very wrong in "Snowman," Buddy is both a recognizable American boy and a trademark Perrotta hero. Bad Haircut is a moving, spare book from a writer who, even this early in his career, had an assured sense of the complexity of his characters' emotional landscapes.
Amid the current glut of '70s nostalgia, Perrotta has fashioned a moving cycle of stories that looks past the era's celebrated kitsch to still relevant social and cultural issues and the timeless mysteries of growing up. In 10 tales covering a period from the fall of 1969 to the summer of 1980, he follows the revelations of his narrator, Buddy, from his days as an eight-year-old Cub Scout through his return home from the first year of college. Set in the small New Jersey town of Darwin, these seamless, understated narratives find--in boyhood activities as ordinary as playing sports, riding a bike, taking driver's ed or going to the prom--insights into loneliness, societal violence, sexual identity, racism, mortality and much more. Perrotta eschews sentimentality and overt philosophizing, crafting in Buddy's voice a sensitivity to pregnant moments that remain unexplained and a knack for delicate, unobtrusive metaphor. Forgoing the easy irony of disco and vintage TV, he delivers a convincing portrait of a time of life, illuminating all the profound cruelty and tenderness of adolescence.