Welcome to LA? Nineties' Hollywood gets an Italian makeover in this poignant and ruefully funny coming-of-age novel featuring a teenage girl who's on shaky ground—in more ways than one.
Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippie-ish filmmaker parents and transplanted to the strange suburban world of the San Fernando Valley. With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle to make it big, Hollywood fashion, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips and Bloods and Persian gang members, and a car-based environment of 99-cent stores and obscure fast-food franchises and all-night raves. She forges friendships with Henry, who runs his mother's movie memorabilia store, and the bewitching Deva, who introduces her to the alternate cultural universe that is Topanga Canyon. And then the 1994 earthquake rocks the foundations not only of Eugenia's home but of the future she'd been imagining for herself.
Barzini's moving and provocative coming-of-age novel follows a character charging headlong into the chaos of adolescence. Uprooted from her home in Rome by parents with stars and dollar signs in their eyes, Eugenia is forced to forge a new life for herself in Van Nuys, Calif. They arrive destination shortly after the 1992 L.A. riots; the city and Eugenia's psyche are fragile and unsettled. After her only friend is killed in a gang-related incident, Eugenia becomes transfixed by a mysterious girl named Deva and the allure of Topanga Canyon. Feeling overlooked by her movie-making family, she reaches out for acceptance through experimentation with sex and drugs, crushing and rebuilding her identity as the days pass by. While Eugenia has normal teenage issues, her maturity and the collision of cultures and personalities she encounters make this novel richer and darker than a typical teen-angst story.