karen's Reviews > Lullabies for Little Criminals

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
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's review
Apr 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: icky-sex, upstairs-neighbors
Read from April 24 to 25, 2011

don't make your books look like chick lit if you want people to read 'em.

more free advice from me.

but it's true - not all of us have a sarah montambo in our lives to tell us, "no, this is really very good." because it is. and this is not just me groping all the canadian books in the corner of the dancefloor, this book is a sparkly little gem.

at the beginning, it reminded me a lot of weetzie bat. it is a similarly glossy-slick storytelling style, but this one is about a girl with a loving junkie single dad who treats her like a peer (and since he is only 15 years older than her, he's not far off) and they breeze from apartment to apartment in montreal in a daze where there are no consequences and everything will be okay, even if they have no money and there are dangers on the streets and foster homes.

but it doesn't stay rosy.

this one is not teen fiction, but she captures the young teenage character so well, in both thoughts and actions. even though baby is exposed to so much that is unsavory, she is still a little kid with a kid's energy, freaking out pimps with her sudden dancing and yelling, trashing a house and not stealing the jewelry (because of her own kid-logic) but stealing a cute turtle knickknack, avoiding bathing...it's like what greg is always saying when he talks about lolita; that lo is totally gross, the way a little kid is, playing with her gum and being dirty and smelly, and it's not like in the movie at all, or in most may-december films. kids are rarely sexually precocious, even when they are imitating behaviors they have seen or been taught. the gross will always out. and i loved that about this book; the moments of kid-grossery that would pop out unexpectedly.

in the back of the book, where harpercollins slaps all those readers' guides and interviews, there is this wonderful passage in her "making of" feature:

the inability to properly identify danger exists throughout the book. whereas children can be terrified by a puppet of a crocodile or a photograph of a shark in a national geographic magazine, they are unable to get it through their heads to look both ways when they cross the street or that there are strangers that you cannot talk to....

when i was eleven, i used to have a friend whose older brother was a junkie. he and his friends were the coolest kids in the neighborhood. some high points in my childhood were when drug addicts would flip out and come out of their apartments in their underwear with cats on their heads. we kids would dance around them, shouting and laughing with our hands up in the air. i wanted to capture this nonjudgmental attitude a lot of lower-class kids have to drugs. i also wanted to portray the relationships these same kids have with seedy adults. children believe the lies that adults tell them and are dutifully impressed. lowlifes are fantastical creatures who animate the world of children, and, in turn, lowlifes love children who are their most captive and adoring audience.

that's what i was trying to say, about the things i liked about this book. but she is a writer, so she said it much much better.

this book was written five years ago. i am ready for a follow-up, please!!

edit - yayyy!!! i finally got my second book. thanks for listening, heather o'neill!
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Reading Progress

01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-38 of 38) (38 new)

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karen so far it is just great.

message 2: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I had thought you already read this.

karen and i thought france was an island!

message 4: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine but you also thought manhattan was not an island so it all balances out.

karen i know! i am the stupidest ever when it comes to geography.

and neuroscience.

karen and - wait - i knew manhattan was an island! i just thought the bronx was connected to the island.

message 7: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine so the problem is that you always think things are islands

message 8: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine neuroscience is the stupidest

karen i do! everything should be an island!

message 10: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Technically everything is

message 11: by Greg (new)

Greg Who would have thought this book was good?

message 12: by j (new)

j I Think I Love You is supposed to be a really good nick hornby-type book.

then they gave it this cover, almost ensuring no man will ever touch it:

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson

message 13: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine oh I love the cover of this book. I am falling for chick lit marketing.

joel greg read a pink book once

message 14: by j (last edited Apr 27, 2011 10:33PM) (new)

j the record has lipstick on it!

(the british cover is way better. still girly but i would pick it up. i also think the u.s. one is just boring design.)

message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 28, 2011 06:56AM) (new)

I'm lending this book to someone today. :)

It really does need a new cover. It doesn't work.

message 16: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina karen, your review reminds me of Hula -- kids being seduced/jaded by adult bad behavior...

karen what's hula?? is that another book??

message 18: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina Hula: A Novel is what I mean. Sorry for a lazy reference...

karen ooh! i will look for this at work. or better yet - greg! you are at work now! if we don't have this, order it in, please!

message 20: by Greg (new)

Greg I just shortlisted three of them

karen woot!

message 22: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina oh, the cogs of commerce...

karen see what you started! now this author will become a millionaire because of you!

message 24: by Kathrina (new)

Kathrina Yes. Only 499,995 copies to go (or whatever her contract grants her).

message 25: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel New book to add to my to-reads/really-want-to-reads then.

message 26: by Cassie (new) - added it

Cassie Glad you mentioned this in your Asta in the Wings review. It sounds great. The "making of" bit makes me want to read it even more!

karen yes! more people should read this one!

Bcoghill Coghill This is a book that should be read by teenagers. A cautionary tale.

message 29: by Micha (new)

Micha I know this is a really stupid reason not to read this book, but I can't read a novel whose main character's name is "Baby." The same way I will never like the movie Dirty Dancing no matter how much I try.

message 30: by j (new)

j nobody puts baby in a corner, metaphorically, by judging her based on her name!

message 31: by Micha (new)

Micha I'm not putting her in a corner, I'm ignoring her completely.

karen awwww but her dad is a junkie!! he doesn't know any better!

message 33: by E (new) - added it

E "i also wanted to portray the relationships these same kids have with seedy adults. children believe the lies that adults tell them and are dutifully impressed. lowlifes are fantastical creatures who animate the world of children, and, in turn, lowlifes love children who are their most captive and adoring audience."

I love that! Thanks for sharing it. I'm really keen to read this now.

karen i just got an ARC of her new book and i am really excited to read it.

Nenia *The Flagrant Liberal* Campbell Your chicklit comment inspired me to make this list:


Hope you don't mind...I referenced you in my review. :D

karen not at all!!

message 37: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Jones this is a book that NEVER would have made my TBR list if I hadn't just stumbled upon your review!

karen oh, god i hope you love it. i just finished her second book and i freaking loved it. eventually i will have time to review it but shortform - it's great.

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