Cover image for The perfect age
The perfect age
Skyler, Heather.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
394 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Helen is just fifteen, lanky and striking. She is a lifeguard at the pool at The Dunes hotel this summer--her first job, a step toward independence in a world beginning to treat her as an adult and a woman. Her mother, Kathy, watching Helen grow up, suddenly finds herself in a place equally uncertain: her children getting older, her stable marriage perhaps too stable, the slow days of summer leaving her adrift. When she meets Helen's boss, the manager at the pool, she chooses an affair that opens her to the idea of a different sort of life. Following Helen and Kathy through three summers, this novel is an intimate picture of two sexual awakenings under one roof and their aftershocks on a family. Heather Skyler shows us that the validity of life's deepest experiences--love, betrayal, acceptance--is never compromised by age. Reading group guide included.

Author Notes

Heather Skyler was born and raised in Las Vegas. She currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, son, and daughter.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Perpetually sunny Las Vegas is the setting for three summers of tangled love affairs in this sultry, reflective debut novel. Helen Larkin is 15 the summer she starts working as a lifeguard at the Dunes Hotel pool, brooding over her drummer boyfriend, Leo, and wondering whether her mother, Kathy, could possibly be having an affair with Helen's boss, the "over-forty walnut-colored" head lifeguard, Gerard. The question of betrayal is constantly on her mind, whether she is cheating on Leo with another lifeguard or spying on her mother eating chocolate chip ice cream in Gerard's kitchen. On a rebellious illicit date, she wonders, "If no one is hurt, is it actually wrong? Helen knows, somewhere inside her water-cooled limbs, that it is, but she floats on the other possibility for a while." Among those who might be hurt are Edward, Helen's buttoned-up father, a professor of Russian history, and Leo, who worries that he can't offer cosseted, beautiful Helen enough. Skyler takes the time and space to capture the natural emotional arc of relationships, adding nuance with some lovely descriptive writing ("Past this they dip into neighborhoods scarred by yellow lawns, each one leading to a house so cheap and thin it would never withstand a winter in Ohio"). The novel's conclusion is perhaps too neatly engineered, but Skyler perfectly captures the languid heat of long Las Vegas summers and the irresistible temptations of love at any age. Agent, Elizabeth Sheinkman. (May) Forecast: The novel's strong local flavor, well-judged early summer release and dreamy jacket will help it compete with similar tales of mother-daughter strife. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Skyler's first novel is set in Las Vegas, but casinos and drive-through wedding chapels do not figure in this beautifully wrought coming-of-age story. Instead, we watch protagonist Helen move from awkward 15-year-old to poised 18-year-old over three summers. Along the way, Skyler touches on the connection between sex and love-if, indeed, there is one-and offers a graphic look at the waxing and waning endemic to all long-term relationships. In addition, she tackles the ways children lash out at parents when they suspect a betrayal. Throughout, Skyler's writing is brutally realistic and starkly honest; indeed, both Helen and her parents are astutely rendered, and readers will feel true empathy for all of them. Likewise, Helen's boyfriend-who wavers between wanting to be with Helen every minute and desiring freedom and autonomy-is palpably real. There are loads of life lessons here, but unlike an after-school television special, this novel posits neither moral absolutes nor knee-jerk answers. Rich, smart, and nuanced, it is highly recommended for all libraries.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.