March 06, 2006 12:00 PM

by Michelle Tea

NOVEL

Poet Tea’s quirky, gritty first novel is a coming-of-age tale about a 14-year-old loner in working-class Massachusetts. Trisha lives with her carbophobic sister, hypochondriac mom and Mom’s lout of a lover and does a whole lot of nothing with her days. She sleeps late, swigs beer in her room and, when there’s nothing else to do, trades in her ratty sweats for a miniskirt and a few pounds of Aqua Net and lands a job at the mall. Until she gets fired on her first day.

So why is this book so impossible to put down? Because Trisha is a raucous observer of everything from mall culture minutiae to her sister’s reality TV dreams. Nothing gets by her. Rose of No Man’s Land takes place almost entirely during that single day when she starts and ends her mall job. By the time the night is fully under way, this eagle-eyed misfit who’s spent 14 years doing nothing has discovered crystal meth, sexuality, friendship and, finally, something real in her life. Herself.

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