Jack Womack's underappreciated masterpiece, "Random Acts of Senseless Violence"

Over on Tor.com, Jo Walton (herself one of my favorite writers) reviews Jack Womack's sorely neglected novel Random Acts of Senseless Violence, a book I rank with Uglies, The Parable of the Sower, and even The Diary of Anne Frank for being an unflinching, engrossing, difficult coming-of-age story. I've read it (at least) a dozen times, and I find new reasons to love it every time.

Random Acts is written in the form of the diary of Lola Hart, a twelve year old girl in a near-future New York City. As the book progresses she changes from being a sweet middle-class child to a robbing murdering street girl as society changes around her. Presidents are assassinated and money is devalued and martial law is declared as she worries about her sexuality and groans about being forced to read Silas Marner for school. At the start of the book she's writing in standard English with the occasional odd word choice, by the end she has progressed into a completely different dialect, and you have progressed step by step along with her and are reading it with ease. I can't think of a comparable linguistic achievement, especially as he does it without any made up words. (Random example: "Everything downcame today, the world's spinning out and I spec we finally all going to be riding raw.") I also can't think of many books that have a protagonist change so much and so smoothly and believably. What makes it such a marvelous book is the way Lola and her world and the prose all descend together, and even though it's bleak and downbeat it's never depressing.

So, why haven't you read it?

Random Acts of Senseless Violence: Why isn't it a classic of the field?

Random Acts of Senseless Violence on Amazon