Molly McGrann (3 stars)

Exurbia (Picador)


The 80s may have been the decade that taste forgot (unless you reckon that was the 70s or 90s), but it’s been wildly in vogue for writers looking to pick on an even meaner, reckless period than the one we are currently dragging ourselves through. But rather than soil a whole book with swathes of cultural namedroppings and acres of pop references, Molly McGrann is keen to let her backdrop fade in gently, showing perhaps that western teenagers’ worries and obsessions never really change through the years.

Her crew (three sets of frustrated kids, turning to moshing, robbing and pipe bombing respectively) has the social devastation of Reaganomics as their context, with The Love Boat re-runs floating on TV. Ultimately, the plotlines all seem a mite obvious and overly familiar; you simply know that the quiet, nicer girl will end up clad in black, an abused mess, having opted to hang out with the white militiamen.

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