A Character As Reliable As the Internet

undiscovered-gyrl-jktUndiscovered Gyrl

by Allison Burnett (Vintage)

The gimmick of e-mail novels was spawned about five minutes after the birth of e-mail itself. Blog novels? Every other new novelist these days is a blogger, or birthed their idea on a blog. Which is why Allison Burnett's new book, Undiscovered Gyrl, is actually so welcome. It doesn't use blogging as a gimmick, it uses it as a setting. Like London to Dickens, or the Mississippi River to Twain, that vague "place" we all inhabit known as cyberspace is where this book lives.

It creates a real, multidimensional, human character as much as you might know anyone behind flickering pixels. Katie is a late adolescent with problems (who isn't?) and is also dripping with charm and wit. But how much of what she says is TRUE? We are witnesses to her blog, and her life, or her dream life. In fact, that's all we "see." And as Katie flounders through a lost year between high school and college (what other countries call the "Gap Year,") we flounder along with her. In bracing fashion.

Burnett inhabits a teen girl like he inhabited a middle-aged gay New York man in his previous novel, Christopher -- perfectly. He transforms himself. But again, this skill is not just a trick. He has something to say about life. While the book, for me at least, sometimes ground into a kind of Y.A. Litany of dates that started to run on and on, Burnett (and Katie) save it. I won't give anything away; suffice it to say, stick with this quick book for a powerful, brave, genre-busting high-wire act of an ending. In fact, this final punch brings it all home. Don't be deterred by the superficial trappings, Burnett is on to something here. - Ken Krimstein

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Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.