Pizza girl | Jean Kyoung Frazier

“The queer slacker pizza delivery novel we’ve been waiting for”, as one blog described it, perfectly. A gorgeous short and bittersweet debut novel, narrated in the first person by the disconnected, soon-to-be teenage mother pizza girl of the title, with classic teenage ennui. She becomes smitten with a customer, an older married woman, and things go from just-about-keeping-it-together to pretty messy.

Along with a uniquely memorable main character, there’s real emotional complexity lurking beneath the deceptively zippy narrative – loss and need drive her increasingly erratic actions, along with conflicted feelings around identity and belonging, all subtly brought into play as dark undercurrents. The banality of pizza girl’s life contrasts with the surreal imaginings and flights of fantasy that are her inner world, while in uncomfortably believable denial about the reality of her baby. You veer between wanting to wrap your arms around her, and wanting to give her a good shake.

The author has a lovely skilful touch with imagery: pizza girl’s glimpses into lives of others, always outside looking in, waiting on doorsteps, pizza box in hand; the home of her beloved with the immaculate front entrance concealing domestic chaos beyond; flicking tv channels with her iPod on, disconnected as ever; drunk in the cocoon of her (useless, dead) dad’s shed, or driving aimlessly around LA in his old car at night, life passing her by. She picks out sensory details perfectly – the object of the obsession’s buoyant ponytail, her worn shirt, greasy food – and her eye for detail and ear for dialogue are just superb.

There’s so much to unpack from this small but perfectly formed novel, and I could go on – a lot. Jean Kyoung Frazier writes with perfect control and confidence, and has every reason to be confident; she’s seriously gifted. Suffice to say, Pizza girl is a gem: buy it, and tell your friends.

Advance reader copy supplied by NetGalley.