Thirteen year old Paul lives a protected life in the upmarket sixth arrondissement of Paris. His divorced parents have little time for him; his father busy with work and his obsessive fitness regime; his mother with her young wannabe rock star lover. Appearances and social achievement are what matter to the exclusion of all else. Paul is deemed by them to be a failure (not passing appropriate school entrance exams) and so he's left searching for affection elsewhere.
At school there's a new girl, Scarlett, challenging opinion and style in typical manic pixie way, and of course all the boys fancy her, including Paul. At first she only dates cool kids, but gradually a friendship builds between her and Paul. Will he find the unconditional love he craves with her?
This coming-of-age story brilliantly captures the chic but heartless and empty world in which Paul lives; success, or at least the appearance of it, matters more than happiness. I loved the writing style and found that in mood there was much to remind the reader of Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse. I was really enjoying it ... BUT ... and it was a big 'but' that alienated me ... as the story progressed I became unsettled by seeming-homophobia on behalf of many of the characters. Some of it I could forgive as the violent reaction of a young teenager, especially considering the way in which he stumbles on the relationship, but no one took time out (ok, we've already established the heartless lack of care of his parents) to explain that there was nothing wrong with this relationship - that it was a valid expression of sexuality, rather than the immoral, degenerate behaviour Paul sees it as - and it left a sour taste which diminished an otherwise wonderful novel.
Publisher - PicadorGenre - adult/teen coming of age story