Cover image for Serious girls
Serious girls
Swann, Maxine.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador, [2003]

Physical Description:
229 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When her grandmother insists Maya be sent away to boarding school, the sixteen-year-old feels as if her life has turned a new page. Raised in the remote countryside by her emotionally distant hippie-ish mother, Maya finds herself isolated in the all-girl community. When Rea, another outsider, becomes her friend, the two girls tell each other their life stories, and speculate as to what growing up might mean. How do they become "people" with style and character as opposed to school girls?

Their desire to be adults takes them beyond the closed world of the school, into the local town and the city where they experiment - shopping in thrift stores; confronting their fears as they try on new identities; and wondering about sex. Both girls test the precarious line between an emerging sense of self and its total disintegration in the very different relationships from which they eventually escape, wiser and secure once again in their friendship and curiosity about life.

Author Notes

Maxine Swann 's short story "Flower Children" won the Cohen Award, The O. Henry Award, the Pushcart Prize and was included in The Best American Short Stories (1998). Serious Girls is her first novel.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

When does your life assume its course? wonders 16-year-old Maya, who is lonely at boarding school until she meets Roe, a fellow outsider. The girls form an intense friendship, taking long walks, trying on clothes (and new identities) in thrift shops, and confiding their fears and questions: What makes a person a person? When does life begin? Vowing to have interesting lives and to collect experience above all, they enter troubled sexual relationships: Maya with a 32-year-old man, and Roe with a physically abusive teenager. The affairs end, after great pain, and the girls return to their philosophical wanderings, deciding this time to enjoy things, not just experience them. Roe remembers her dreams with a hallucinatory precision, and the same can be said for Swann's prose. In her debut novel, she writes with a cool detachment and poetic beauty about the largest questions and the meaning in the smallest gestures. And in Maya's voice, she tells an elegant yet raw coming-of-age story about earnest young women who yearn to be more distinct than the rest. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

After being sent to boarding school by her grandmother, Maya and new friend Roe experiment with clothing, venture into New York on their own, and have their first sexual relationships. They're hoping to gain the experience that will transform them into distinct, memorable individuals, but the results are not what they had expected. Similar to Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea in its floral imagery and exploration of the imbalance of power between the sexes, this novel offers observations about the balancing act of adolescent growth and descriptions of surrounding scenery that are quite deft and lovely. However, Swann's first novel does not dare to go far enough in its exploration of teenage girls' expeditions into adult life and their recuperation from the mistakes made, along the way. It is too mild-mannered, and the characters are distant. As Roe says, "What I want right now is to feel alive, the whole way through." This book has glimmers of life, but not the whole way through; its strength lies in description, not characterization. Recommended for large public libraries where there is an interest in literary fiction.-Amy Ford, Charles Cty. P.L., Waldorf, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.