"Superb." --O, The Oprah Magazine
At the center of an attic studio littered with paints and portraits stands fifteen-year-old Nina, nude. A canvas separates her from her mother, who perches on a stool, paintbrush in hand. In a desperate attempt to coax her mother out of her emotional seclusion since the accidental death of Nina’s little brother, Nina has offered herself up as a model. The painting that will result, entitled Nina: Adolescence, will mark her mother’s triumphant return to the Boston art world and form the centerpiece of a gallery show.
But the exposure makes Nina uneasy, and her father begins to protest with increasing vehemence. The family starts to come apart, sending Nina into a tailspin as she recklessly attempts to free herself from a disintegrating household and the confines of someone else’s frame. With the tension reaching a breaking point, Nina finds that the gift she gave to her mother is rapidly becoming a sacrifice and could very well serve to be the cause of her unmaking . . .
“Hassinger’s lovely first novel is elegant, sad, often funny, often unsettling. She writes with such precision and understanding, with mercy but unsparingly, about adolescence, its wonders, horrors, passions—sexuality, family ties, and friendship—that, like all excellent portraits, it is not only about the subject of the portraits themselves, but also about the viewers.” —Elizabeth McCracken
“There’s a sly sensuality to Hassinger’s prose, and her attention to Nina’s body can be as loving as it can be ominous. . . . Hassinger deserves credit for writing a truly penetrating book . . . the novel surges forward like a quiet thriller, with Nina at the center, nakedly vulnerable to the forces of grief, neglect and abuse. Hassinger manages to take the utter confusion of growing up—of nearing independence yet desperately needing the guidance of others—and exaggerates that feeling of terror tenfold, stretching each tremulous moment as thin and penetrable as Saran Wrap fitted over a bowl.” —Salon.com
“In terms of summoning reader sympathy, few could outdo the young protagonist of Amy Hassinger’s first novel, who finds coming of age even more complicated when a showing of nude portraits of herself, painted by her artist mother, garners all the wrong kind of attention.” —Vogue
“Hassinger makes Nina’s loss of innocence and plunge into self-destruction chillingly believable. Her graceful, observant prose beautifully captures Nina’s inner world—her guilt, yearning, anger, desire, and joy—while ruthlessly skewering the narcissism of ambitious adults. An unsettling and acutely sensitive debut.” —Booklist
“Affecting . . . Achingly straightforward . . . [A] touching drama with a refreshingly undramatic simplicity. . . ” —Kirkus Reviews
“Disturbing . . . eerily seductive . . . expressive . . . ” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The author captures the nuance and language of adolescence with stunning ease. . . . Deeply unsettling.” —ForeWord Magazine
“Very few writers are able to give the period of adolescence the wider resonance of serious adult literature. In Nina: Adolescence, Amy Hassinger does so brilliantly. This is an exciting debut by a splendid young writer.” —Robert Olen Butler
“A simple story made complex and beautiful by Hassinger’s skillful handling of character, plot, and imagery. She handles tragedy without melodrama, emotion without sentimentality, despair with pragmatism, and a plausibly inspiring hope." —Lisa Carey
“In clear and lucid prose, Hassinger reveals the complex emotions that surround the border of childhood. Tender and brutal . . . and very honest.” —Chris Offutt
Awards and Honors:
· Chosen as an Auditor’s Pick by Ingram Library Service’s “The Heard Word,” September 2003.
· Winner of a 2003 Publisher’s Weekly Listen Up! Award.
· ForeWord Magazine’s Audio Book of the Year, 2003.
· Chosen as a recommended book for summer 2003 by the Buffalo News.