Teenage angst in Istanbul. At first glance Perihan Magden’s novel seems to be about little more than the pent-up frustrations and inner turmoil of a pair of young women who are still too young to fly the family nest but too grown-up to feel comfortable in it any longer. Behiye and Handan meet and bond immediately, despite their differences – Behiye wears black, likes Western thrash bands, shoplifts and is angry with everyone; while Handan wears pink, adores Kylie and Britney Spears, and dotes on her (single) mother. From the outset, their friendship worries the adults around them. What is the nature of Behiye’s love for Handan? Is Behiye so emotionally unstable that Handan is at risk? Why does Handan allow Behiye’s possessiveness to rule her?
Half-way through 2 Girls it seems certain that this is a book about an obsessive love one girl has for another. But author Magden skilfully develops it into something deeper than that. What if Behiye proves not to be the danger that everyone fears? Perhaps the rich boys that trail after Handan are the ones to watch. Or the families of both girls – tracking them down, holding them back.
At its core, this novel is about freedom and the different ways young women seek it out. It is also about the pain of losing freedom, just when you thought it might finally be within your grasp.
My only grumble relates to Magden’s writing style – in her effort to replicate teenage thoughts, she has created an obstructive, repetitive style. But if you can plough through the wordy sections 2 Girls offers a decidedly grown-up picture of the highs and lows of life on the cusp of adulthood.Erin Gill
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