Publication date: May 6th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Debut, Fiction
Within the first eight pages of Young God, thirteen-year-old Nikki jumps off a cliff into a pool of water below after being dared, flirts with her mother’s boyfriend, and then watches her mother die as she attempts the same jump from the cliff. By the end of the second chapter, she has had sex with the boyfriend, stolen his car and his bag of drugs, and moved back into her crack head father’s trailer where he lives with a woman he pimps out at a local motel. All while avoiding the killjoys at DSS who want to put her back in foster care. The remaining chapters of this slim debut chronicle Nikki’s continued escapades as she both experiments with the products she’s now selling and tries to negotiate her rise to drug kingpin in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina.
Heroin is the most secret of them all and needles are the most secret part and she has always loved secrets ever since she was a little girl.
Young God is birthed of the same sort of contemporary reality that brought us such works as Dora: A Headcase and The Listeners, but it makes them look like Sweet Valley High. It is neither easy nor comforting reading and not right for all readers. Nikki is a young god so certain of her immortality and her ability to dominate the filth and violence of her life that she wastes no time with moral dilemmas but establishes a slash-and-burn attitude towards anyone who gets in her way. Emulate these drugged out thieves, pimps, and killers that surround her? Screw that, she will conquer them. Morris’s prose is uncomfortable in its slashing, unrelenting bursts. Originally, the manuscript was over 100,000 words and Morris relays that cutting it down to the 20,000 words requested was her favorite part of the process because
“I found the more I cut, the closer I got to the feeling I wanted: not just close to the bone, the bone.”
The jagged writing and single sentence chapters are so well executed that Young God reads as quickly and flames out as brilliantly as we imagine Nikki’s life will. The only question left is not what will happen to her but what will Katherine Faw Morris do next?
This book can be purchased at the Elliott Bay Book Company: