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Comparisons to Bright Lights, Big City and other Brat Pack landmarks surround this infamous autobiographical first novel (already banned in China). It's a morose tale of "Loneliness, apathy, misery, helplessness, depression, and self-loathing": the story of Hong, a 17-year-old girl who runs away from her Shanghai school and family in 1986, ending up in the bustling, effectively lawless southern city of Shenzen in China's "New Economic Zone." Hong drifts about, getting into trouble, working briefly as a nightclub singer, exchanging stab wounds with a particularly creepy boyfriend, then losing her virginity to Saining, a conflicted, weak-willed pop-rock guitarist and composer. The pair can neither live together nor apart, as Saining becomes a heroin addict, passing on both his habit and his self-destructive sensibility to Hong, who experiments with numerous ways to further ravage her frail body (she's asthmatic) until she's injured in a gang war and brought back to a Shanghai hospital by her clueless father. Then guess what? She turns to writing as therapy ("a method of transforming corruption and decay into something wonderful and miraculous"), takes a bisexual lover, offers comfort and sympathy to acquaintances stalked by AIDS, and hesitantly readmits the supposedly reformed Saining back into her life, as both are approaching 30 and ostensibly too mature to keep tearing themselves and each other to pieces. Candy is a mercifully quick read: lots of action, many clichйs (which probably aren't the fault of Lingenfelter's brisk translation), an abundance of clipped dialogue festooned with trendy obscenities and explicitly detailed sex. Interpolated anecdotal portrayals of other restlessyouths hell-bent on early death provide some variation, but little relief. We're stuck with Hong's smug, essentially unconvincing declarations of self-reclamation and enlightenment. Mian's grasp of sordid detail



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