Stripped down and stylized—the sharpest, boldest, brashest debut of the year
Meet Nikki, the most determined young woman in the North Carolina hills. Determined not to let deadbeats and dropouts set her future. Determined to use whatever tools she can get her hands on to shape the world to her will. Determined to preserve her family's domination of the local drug trade. Nikki is thirteen years old.
Opening with a deadly plunge from a high cliff into a tiny swimming hole, Young God refuses to slow down for a moment as it charts Nikki's battles against isolation and victimhood. Nikki may be young, but she's a fast learner, and soon—perhaps too soon, if in fact it's not too late—she knows exactly how to wield her powers over the people around her. The only thing slowing her down is the inheritance she's been promised but can't seem to find, buried somewhere deep in those hills and always just out of reach.
With prose stripped down to its bare essence, brash and electrifying, brutal yet starkly beautiful, Katherine Faw Morris's Young God is a debut that demands your attention and won't be forgotten—just like Nikki, who will cut you if you let that attention waver.
The protagonist of Morris's slim debut novel, told in short fragments and set in the hills of rural North Carolina, is the barely adolescent Nikki, whose mother dies within the first few pages of the book. To avoid being taken by child services, Nikki infiltrates her father's trailer, hell-bent on reviving, and eventually taking over, the family business: in this young girl's world, times are tough and drugs provide the only means for making a lucrative living. As a budding dealer of 13, Nikki has yet to suffer the inevitable wear and tear of the job: bad skin, meth mouth, and the effects of fast food and cheap beer. The setup is promising, but all the characters remain two-dimensional, uncaring and unaffected. Nikki witnesses her mother's death, as well as a grisly murder soon after, but is unconvincingly stoic. Morris has kept his heroine at arm's length, and therefore she, and the book as a whole, devolves into a slick romanticism of poverty, youth, and violence.
So. So. Incredibly raw. And inappropriate and uncomfortable. A sad story but a very interesting one.