four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
23-July-Aug-2006
By: 
Michelle Tea
user_rating: 
0

A-RoseOfNoMan’sLandThere’s nothing that Trisha, a 14-year-old loner in the beaten-down town of Mogsfield, Massachusetts, likes better than to listen to music and drink beer in bed. With a couch potato for a mother, a white-trash live-in boyfriend who doesn’t exactly uplift the household, and a carbophobic sister obsessed with being on MTV’s The Real World, Trisha expects nothing from the summer ahead. Then, at a mall job gone bad, she meets the rebellious mall rat Rose, and her 24-hour adventure begins—from friendship to crystal meth to tattoos to wild sexual adventures on a golf course to, finally, finding herself.
MacAdam/Cage. 306 pages. $22. ISBN: 1596921609

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Michelle Tea’s new Rose of No Man’s Land is both a riotously funny coming-of-age story and a poignant cautionary tale that smacks of ‘there but for the grace of God’ heartbreak. … But Trisha’s cynical, wisecracking descriptions are almost too brilliantly evocative, too clever as she illuminates the story’s small cast of characters with vivid, telling details." Karen Campbell

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Rose of No Man’s Land is balls-out from the start, with Tea drawing on her poor Massachusetts upbringing to voice Trisha, a 14-year-old malcontent who speaks in capital letters (‘You’re Not Being Fair. You’re Taking Me Out Of Context’). … Not for the faint of heart, Tea’s writing is raw, funny, and tragic, but never forced." Whitney Pastorek

People Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"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." Allison Lynn

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"It is a trial by fire and one gets the feeling that despite the harrowing circumstances, Trisha has been cleansed rather than damaged in the process. … Like the narrator of Dorothy Allison’s sublime Bastard Out of Carolina, Trisha declines the altar of the victim, a seemingly ubiquitous stance in today’s literature, and in place of that offers the reader honest access to her befuddled but sympathetic life." David Hellman

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Tea’s previous works seem like acts of preparation—apprenticeships in the badlands of memoir, lively, sprawling animals, unfettered by the pesky ball-and-chain of plot. … Tea is trying to do for working-class teenage lesbians what S. E. Hinton’s Rumble Fish and The Outsiders did for greasers and street-brawling tough guys in the 1970s and 80s: to let them be heard and felt." Lenora Todaro

Critical Summary

Following on the heels of her graphic novel Rent Girl (2005), the award-winning Valencia (2001), about San Francisco prostitution, and The Beautiful (2003), a collection of poetry, Rose of No Man’s Land is Tea’s first novel. Critics describe it as raw, honest, confident, hilarious, unpretentious, cynical, and poignant—and agree that among coming-of-age novels, Tea’s voice rings true. Narrated by Trisha, the novel takes place over one day, which stretched credibility for some critics. Yet Tea’s first-person narrator and defiant sidekick, as well as her fantastic observations of pop culture, won critics over. Notes the San Francisco Chronicle: "Trisha refuses to become a poster child for what is wrong with youth today, and instead becomes what is most important of all, herself."