Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr

A high school basketball player suffers from unrequited love

This novel was strangely compelling, even though it was "about" schoolgirl basketball and I don't have that much of an interest in schoolgirl basketball. But the book didn't concern games and practices and sneakers, not really.  It was about a girl in love with another girl, and how the girl cannot bring herself to say so. The love story pulled me along, the way that Nancy is trapped, has no power over her love. In addition, the novel offers a glimpse into another world, a world not usually seen in literary novels-- African American 1980's LA, a background of endless freeways, carjacking and Laker championships.

Nancy Takahiro, 17 year old basketball phenom from Inglewood, is in love with Raina, the 17 year old star guard from a rival high school. It so happens (and this is handled believably), that Nancy's dad and Raina's mom are in love and move into together. The girls become housemates. Nothing much happens in the novel after that. Nancy pines, they drink a lot of beer, their respective teams win until they meet in the championship where Raina pulls a Isaiah Thomas bonehead style pass. Racial tensions, homosexual tensions, are in the background of this novel, not the foreground. These kids really don't know they're poor.

The novel is about 25% baggier than it needs to be.  We may need to know all the players on Nancy's team, but do we really need to know all the players on Raina's team?  At the end it bogged down, the emotions unsupported, but Nancy with her blind strivings, her passion for Raina, keeps the reader interested. Raina, however, is essentially unknowable. I guess that's what makes her the love object.





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