This emotionally explosive novel is, in the author’s own words, a ‘hormonal ferment, a soup of coming-of-age narratives.’ It’s told as if by 18-year-old Lux Langley, who has lost her memory of the trauma that has caused her to suffer subsequently from agonising migraines, insomnia and periods of near insanity. A pupil at exclusive and slightly creepy Richdeane Arts School set in London and catering for young artists thought to possess great talent, she is looked after loyally by her two best friends and an on-site therapist. Her parents are also very supportive when they are allowed to be, putting up with their daughter’s frequent refusal to see them with stoic patience. There is also a potential boyfriend, plenty of alcohol and recreational drugs and numerous parties, none of which Lux enjoys in the slightest.
The daily outpourings of angst as she blames other and also herself for the state she is in could over so many pages have soon turned into a prolonged exercise in privileged self-pity. But debut author Lydia Ruffles, no longer a teenager herself but with some first-hand experience of what Lux has to go through, largely avoids going down this path by the exercise of her obvious intelligence, her sharp wit and a lively prose style. Her novel is still too long, taking more than twice the time to describe this particular version of adolescent ennui that J.D.Salinger and Sylvia Plath needed for their novels written in the same genre. But Lux is so obviously suffering and is also so well portrayed that readers will soon warm to a character who can also at times be extremely trying. ‘Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night,’ warns Bette Davis half-way through her best film, All About Eve. She could also have been describing this sprawling, angry, darkly amusing and ultimately life-affirming story.