Young God by Katherine Faw Morris

Nikki is thirteen years old. She has big plans. Starting with the unexpected death of her mother, Nikki begins to pursue her father’s faltering drug empire – as under no circumstances does she intend to end up back in the group home. As she fumbles and falters through the maze of drugs in North Carolina hill country, she refuses to be limited by what society thinks a little girl should do – if she dresses provocatively then she damn sure wants men to want to fuck her. As the reader follow Nikki’s descent into criminality and rebellion, we watch as she is easily swayed by the world she wants to control.

Young God

This is not an easy or pleasant read and, to be honest, I feel like gritty hillbilly noir is becoming a “thing” (True Detective, anyone?). I’m not complaining, by any means, but as with anything too much of the same thing becomes monotonous. Thankfully, this debut novel is just different enough to warrant notice.

To begin with, the prose is stripped down to a bare minimum. There are no extra words; in fact there are chapters that consist of a only a few words. While editing, Morris took a novel that was originally 100,000 words and pared it down to only 22,000. It’s stylish, provocative, and terse – it’s also highly effective. It felt fresh and vivid. But where the novel really shines is in its sense of place. The impoverished hills of North Carolina sound harrowing (and real) – and with the introduction of a heroine like Nikki, Morris does nothing to improve their image. Minimal and tense, I didn’t like it by any means, but Young God is a solid entry into the grit-lit southern noir genre. Recommended for fans of Frank Bill, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Daniel Woodrell. I will certainly look for whatever Katherine Faw Morris does next.

Homemade Potato Chips

Food references are few and far between in this one (as one would expect about an aspiring teenage drug lord), my favorite might be the bag of potato chips in the vegetable crisper. Pair this one with homemade potato chips baked with a hint of olive oil + parmesan cheese, herb, and garlic dip.

Do you ever read books that stretch the boundaries of what you’re comfortable with (or enjoy books that cannot be described as…enjoyable)? And tell me, how many of you loved True Detective?

*I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

17 thoughts on “Young God by Katherine Faw Morris”

  1. I try to avoid books that stretch the boundaries of what I’m comfortable with, although it sometimes happens. This doesn’t appeal to me at all, though I love the term ‘grit-lit’ – haven’t heard that before, maybe because it’s not my thing. Have never seen True Detective, leaving me excluded from MANY conversations.

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    1. It’s good. This isn’t my favorite of the grit-lit books I’ve read – it’s nearly becoming an actual genre – but I still enjoyed how highly stylized the book was.

      The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock is the book to be. It’s amazing, absolutely amazing,

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      1. It probably ranks in the top five all time favorite books. Definitely worth it, though it is a little dark – not scary though,

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  2. Ah! I totally forgot about this book. I remember hearing about it several months ago and even had it tagged on Edelweiss, but somehow it slipped my mind. Glad to see it does something a little bit different, because I do think the “genre” is getting a little worn now.

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    1. I think the most notable thing about this book is the protagonist. It is a very young, naïve girl and you get to watch her transformation. It’s bizarre and calculated.

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  3. I don’t usually read books involving the drug trade. It makes me worries for my kids. Far more than scary novels or murders, etc. Drugs are just so real and easy to get into. They terrify me. But you sure make the style of the book sound interesting. And those are the best looking chips I have ever seen.

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    1. It is pretty terrifying how rampant and easily accessible it really is.

      I REALLY want someone to make them for me. Even the dip sounds wonderful.

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  4. My friend was just talking about this book when I saw her over the weekend. She read it based on the brief review she saw in Vogue and I thought I may want to read it too. She said it was nothing like she expected. I did forward your review to her and she replied “I would agree with every single word of that review”. We both LOVED True Detective but I think more for the presentation/acting than the storyline. I just finished The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and half the story was filled with drugs, squalor and southern grit as well, however the book is 10 years old so not of the current trend. I do often enjoy books that are not enjoyable but then I need a vacation from them. Up next for me is The Paris Wife 😉

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    1. Thanks for forwarding it on. I’m glad she agreed. It’s not a GREAT book, but it was very unique and notable in its own right.

      The acting in True Detective is phenomenal. The Little Friend is my least favorite if Tartt’s books, though I still thought it was decent (though I read it years ago).

      If I read too many dark books in a row my mind gets in a funk as well. I like to split it up too.

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  5. This is coming up soon on my reading list and I’m pretty excited for it. I’ve got high hopes for this even after The Weight of Blood was a bit of a disappointment. I agree, I’m noticing the trend of southern gothic fiction but I am not complaining either. It just needs to be done right. I loooooved True Detective. Have you watched it?

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    1. It’s not the best, but it is highly stylized and I didn’t regret reading it. It’s hard to top Donald Ray Pollock, Frank Bill, or Joe R. Lansdale, but this was a good first attempt. Very detached, though…

      I haven’t watched the entire season yet, but I am hoping to catch up soon.

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  6. This novel was like an adreneline shot to the heart but I’m with you on uncomfortabe reading. I don’t do all the time (sometimes I NEED light and fluffy) but I have yet to regret it when I do. The toughest book I read since I started blogging was Beside the Sea.

    Loved True Detective.

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