A coming-of-age tale about two people on a road trip to nowhere
3/5 Picador A coming-of-age tale about two people on a road trip to nowhere, Reed’s debut novel tells the story of a vampire-obsessed 17-year-old girl (we never find out her name) who grabs a lift with an older, freewheeling man named Gunther while hitchhiking across America. Both are equally ambivalent about where they’re headed and together they coast aimlessly across the country, smoking, sharing experiences and generally keeping each other company.
The teenager desperately wants to grow up and is soon infatuated with her driving buddy. When she makes the first move, it’s her 18th birthday. It’s clear the feelings are mutual, but he knows it would never be accepted by the outside world, and doesn’t want to be seen as an ‘old pervert’.
It’s a potent character-driven story, with a strong narrative told from the teen’s perspective, but it does feel like a first novel. The details of both protagonists’ pasts are missing, and the reader is left asking questions from the outset, which becomes increasingly frustrating.
Inevitable comparisons with Lolita are valid, but there’s nothing sinister about this couple’s relationship, and Gunther is more supportive father figure than lover. There’s a lot of promise in The Ice Age and, while it’s bound to resonate more with readers of a similar age to the narrator, Reed proves she’s a talent to keep an eye on. Ben Williams