Michelle's Reviews > Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo
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's review
Jun 01, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction
Read in May, 2009

Xiaolu Guo’s impressive first novel has a narrator who leaps off the page and strides into our world commanding attention with her paradoxical fragility and virulence. Seventeen year old Fenfang leaves behind her family and their provincial way of life as sweet potato farmers for the seething city of Beijing in search of something more than a monotonous existence.
The story is told in twenty brief chapters brimming with deadpan humor and shining with Fenfeng’s resiliency amidst squalor and failed relationships. On the streets of Beijing, she tries to satisfy her insatiable hunger with instant noodles, Western literature, hot coffee, and movies. Her resigned acceptance and blank face imperfectly cover her longing and vulnerability. But after four lost years, Fenfeng feels her life has finally begun. She’s twenty-one, has found work as a movie extra, and believes this will be the catalyst for great changes in her life.
Xiaolu Guo writes short, sharp prose that captures the hard edge of youthful angst. Her infectious novel is written with an authentic and idiosyncratic voice that brings to mind the way Holden Caulfield speaks to disaffected youth. With a fierce honesty, Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth will transfix and transport you as Fenfeng comes of age and finds her place.
- Excerpt from Twenty Fragments
“My youth began when I was twenty-one. At least, that’s when I decided it began. That was when I started to think that all those shiny things in life—some of them might possibly be for me. If you think twenty-one sounds a bit late for youth to start, just think about the average Chinese peasant, who leaps straight from childhood to middle age with nothing in between. If I was going to miss out on anything, it was middle age. Be young or die. That was my plan.”
p.s. paperback comes out 8/11/09

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