Greenwich Village, 1970s: Rainey Royal, fourteen years old, talented, and troubled, lives in a once-elegant, now decaying brownstone with her father, a jazz musician with a cultish personality. Her mother has abandoned the family, and Rainey fends off advances from her father's best friend while trying desperately to nurture her own creat...
Greenwich Village, 1970s: Rainey Royal, fourteen years old, talented, and troubled, lives in a once-elegant, now decaying brownstone with her father, a jazz musician with a cultish personality. Her mother has abandoned the family, and Rainey fends off advances from her father’s best friend while trying desperately to nurture her own creative drives and create a substitute family. She’s a rebel, even a criminal, but she’s also deeply vulnerable, fighting to figure out how to put back in place the boundaries her life has knocked down, and more than that, struggling to learn how to be an artist and a person in a broken world.
Rainey Royal is told in 14 narratives of scarred and luminous beauty that build into a fiercely powerful novel: the harrowing, heartbreaking and ultimately affirming story of a young artist.
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“Selected as a NYT Editors' Choice ...”
“[Rainey is] achingly beautiful and cruelly intimidating ... that in-your-face mix of fear and fearlessness, carnality, control and powerlessness that is what it sometimes takes to survive as a female in America ... But Landis never lets you forget who the true victim is. In a world where the adults behave at best like wrinkled spoiled children and at worst like criminals, there's no one more lost and vulnerable than this raging, magnificent, abandoned little girl, who manages by persistence to grow up.”
“Dylan Landis's Rainey Royal is like its heroine: fierce, winning, and sharp as a blade.”
–Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
“Rainey Royal gets under your skin, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and takes you to a truer, more frightening place. Dylan Landis captures the innocence and cruelty of teenage girls in flamey, jewel-like sentences that hover on the edge of rapture: read these stories with your heart in your throat.”
—Ellis Avery, author of The Last Nude
“In the stunning debut novel, Rainey Royal, Dylan Landis introduces us to girls who play games, girls who play with fire, and girls who distrust each other, drawing them into a friendship so profoundly real, it feels as if she knows our secrets. For those of us who were once these girls, and for those of us who were once afraid of these girls, this story unleashes memory both unnerving and thrilling. Deeply human. Surprisingly tender. Pure poetry. ”
—Susan Henderson, author of Up From the Blue
“Do not pick up Dylan Landis’ fire-hearted novel if you have any need for sleep, because this intense, passionate ride though turbulent girlhood will not let go of your throat until you have followed Rainey, Tina and Leah to the complex end. Evocative of literary coming-of-age classics like Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, yet with the modern edge of Lena Dunham’s Girls, Rainey Royal explores the underbelly of art, glamour, jazz, sainthood, magnetism, the 1970s, sex, and what it means to burn.”
—Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men
“Dylan Landis is a writer of exceptional rigor and finesse. Every page of Rainey Royal is incandescent—practically ablaze—with the beauty and chaos of adolescence, heartache, art and New York City. I don’t know how she does it, but I hope she never stops.”
—Justin Taylor, author of Flings
“Every woman has known a Rainey Royal. The coolest girl in school, the most daring, the most beautiful, yet the one who could turn on you—and then, bewilderingly, turn back. What makes a Rainey Royal, and her effect on everyone she encounters—that chaos of yearning, cruelty, woundedness, seeking, and human poetry—we needed a great writer to show us, and here she is. Dylan Landis has written a spare, elegant novel that's pure nerves, pure adrenaline. Should carry a warning, do not read at bedtime.”
“One need only consider some of the ingredients of this flammable dessert of a novel—art, jazz, sex, cigs, saints and miracles and dangerous modern school girls without parental brakes—to know that Rainey Royal, Dylan Landis’s terrifically entertaining novel, is not just for adults. Younger readers will be equally smitten with Rainey Royal, a hardier, funnier successor to Holden Caulfield. ”
“Beautiful, brutal, mesmerizing, Rainey Royal draws you in from the first, breathtaking sentence and doesn’t let you go. Few novels have affected me as this one did. Reminiscent, at times, of Mary Gaitskill and Lorrie Moore, this is a novel—and a character—for the ages, a wholly original and singular piece of work. Unforgettable, indelible. Read it now.”
“There is a line in Dylan Landis’s lush, fierce, and stunning novel Rainey Royal, that perfectly captures this book’s intense beauty. “Rainey feels half like a butterfly has landed on her wrist and half like a knife is angled to her neck.” Rainey Royal is a chronicle of girlhood as a dangerous, delicate thing. There is edge and tenderness and longing to be found here. Always, though, Landis’s words are a butterfly and a knife—both cutting you open in necessary ways.”
“Dylan Landis’s captivating and unnerving novel Rainey Royal, set in Manhattan of the 1970s and early ’80s, is not a thriller, but it smolders with these loaded questions: How far will an adolescent girl go to gain a sense of belonging; and how can her unaimed sexual power put others, and herself, at risk?”
“'Hard to handle, Rainey thinks. That’s what they say when they talk about me.' The book isn’t hard to handle—it’s a fast read that consumes the reader from beginning to end—but Rainey’s experiences are. Landis takes the time to turn Rainey inside out, revealing the dark underbelly of female adolescence.”
“Fiery, daring, unforgettable... Landis knows bad girls — how their minds work, how they are made, and why they are broken. Best of all, she knows how to make you love them — which you can’t help but do as you follow Rainey Royal, the title character, through her 1970s Greenwich Village girlhood. Rainey is dangerous, but her struggles are timeless, and Landis writes about her with prose so elegant and crystalline that as you read, you have to remind yourself to breathe.”
–Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar, for the San Francisco Chronicle
“Tremendous ... Landis offers a bold alternative of which I hope we see more and more: the novel as feat of compression... crisp, beautiful, often hilarious.”