‘Pretty Little Dirty’ is ‘ruthless and honest’

Renowned author to speak at Flagler Sept. 6-7

By Katelyn Calautti

PHOTO CAPTION: Author of “Pretty Little Dirty” Amanda Boyden

In Amanda Boyden’s first novel, Pretty Little Dirty, she succeeds in transforming the reader back in time. This coming of age story of two best friends is anything but ordinary, yet seems all too familiar.

Boyden puts together the pieces of childhood that are almost forgotten and makes those memories of having a best friend relived. The moments in life that make a person, the people who are remembered, and the choices that have to be made all come rushing back in this edgy, raw, tale of two girls trying to discover more than themselves. It is an adventure of two best friends finding out how to stand their ground, yet struggling to keep their bond alive, making for a captivating read.

Boyden, Flagler College Fall Writer-in-Residence, has a writing style that is ruthless and honest in its candor, but does not stop there. It is richly layered with detail after detail. The novel begins with an excerpt from a diary depicting a punk rock show in 1982. The reader must make a connection between these journal excerpts and the real life events going on in each chapter. For those readers who enjoy music, this book would offer an excellent soundtrack from the punk scene including Circle Jerks, The Skulls, Dead Kennedys, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, Violent Femmes, and X. By using a short diary format to start off each chapter, Boyden makes the reader aware of this important foreshadowing which sets the mood for the rest of the novel.

“Look around. Look at the singer and his band. Look at the other hulking things with their bad tattoos leaning against the walls and know that this is not what you believed it would be. Feel your mistake like a steel-toe to the chest.”

When the two girls meet, in the “lucky years” of childhood, Lisa is overcome by Celeste’s beauty and entire self. Lisa, the narrator throughout the novel, tells us about her best friend Celeste Diamond and how she came to eat, sleep, and breathe her perfect life. Lisa, whose mother was medicated at age two, fills her family-life void with an obsession with her best friend, Celeste, and their entrancing life together. Readers laugh and cry with the girls as they follow them through their first kisses, camp memories, dance lessons, family matters, prom, and discovering their sexuality.

Boyden does a wonderful job letting the readers in on all things “pretty” and “dirty” about teenage life. As the two girls “barrel into the future,” they mature into well mannered and smart, yet restless, young women. Once their worlds involved jazz, cooking, homework and holidays at home soon become filled with art, sex, punk music, drugs and traveling. Their worlds change when Lisa and Celeste start their college years apart, for the first time. Being best friends since the sixth grade they vow to write long letters, call each other, and to search for art, unusual people, free speech, original thought and cool clothes.

The novel takes some drastic turns that make the reader wonder, at what point in Lisa and Celeste’s lives did this happen? How did things get so terribly out of control? Boyden creates these characters based on their impulses and ability to do whatever they want to do. Lisa and Celeste’s carefree attitudes and precise upbringing make the reader wonder if that was the cause of their messy, chaotic life. Did their sudden interest in sleeping with band members on tour and dropping out of college come from being true to themselves, each other, or have they simply spiraled out of control?

Pretty Little Dirty is a timely read for college students, who will not only find this novel captivating in its language, but may also relate to this story of friendship and its haunting demise.

Amanda Boyden will read at Flagler College, Thursday, Sept. 7, in the Flagler Room at 6:30 p.m.

Boyden and her husband, Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road, are this semester’s Writers-in-Residence. In addition to the reading, they will lecture about The Craft of Writing, Sept. 6, at 5 p.m., in the Flagler Room. It is open to the public. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Pretty Little Dirty, by Amanda Boyden. Published by Vintage Books, 342 pages, 2006.

More Info: Amanda Boyden to Speak at Flagler College

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