Arts + Culture » Literary

The Virgins

By Pamela Errans (Tin House)

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The boarding school epic is not a new genre, but Pamela Errans writes, through her uniquely outcast-ish protagonists, Aviva and Seung, a slightly off-kilter tale in The Virgins. First of all, the two lustbirds maintain their virginity until the bitter (tragic) end: different. Their courtship takes place in abandoned chemistry buildings, in patrolled dorm rooms, in the woods behind the Exeter-like scholars' prison they call home. As in Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, this story is told from an obsessed outsider who yearns for Aviva and helps to propel rumours of the couple's, well, coupling. But we also get the story from the virgins' point of view, and things are not as glamourous as they seem. Although slightly overwrought and overdrawn, this novel does occupy its own niche in a limiting genre, and explores adolescent lust, anxiety, familial conflict and drug use with a lyrical expertise and an honesty that reeks of insatiable teenaged angst.

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