It’s hard to know what to write about Hot Little Hands. The blurb on the back of the book promises that it ‘contains nine funny, confronting and pitch-perfect stories about stumbling on the fringes of innocence’. Yes, there are nine stories; and yes, they are confronting; but no, they are not funny. Definitely, not funny.
The first story is about the development of an inappropriate relationship between a pupil and teacher, the second is about a girl who after sexually appeasing a boy in her high school is promptly shunned by him, the fourth story is about a group of young Russian girls who are trafficked to America.
Do you get my drift?
Abigail Ulman’s writes beautifully, and I loved the way she explored the modern complexities of adolescent girls’ and young women’s lives, particularly in relation to the negotiation of their sexual experiences. I warmed to all the characters, whom she has each endowed with distinct and quirky personalities.
But every story has a dark and troubling sting in its tail. While I don’t need rainbows and unicorns, I would be less equivocal about this book if there had been some confirmation that life for girls and young women isn’t totally shit. My sense is that this isn’t what Ulman intended, but ultimately I was left with a feeling of despondency – something quite at odds with what was promised on the cover.