PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'The Blurry Years' Captures the Intricacies and Nuances of Adolescent Girls

Eleanor Kriseman gets good mileage out of her protagonist, who runs the gamut of trying experiences and emotions in The Blurry Years.

The Blurry Years
Eleanor Kriseman

Two Dollar Radio

Jul 2018


A languorous, melancholy slip of a novel, Eleanor Kriseman's The Blurry Years recalls the equally composed and sharply incisive works of authors like Ann Nietzke and Laurie Colwin. It's no small feat; Kriseman is a new writer and relatively young, yet her debut reveals a wealth of depth and keen observations.

A curious and cautious blend between a coming-of-age story and a travelogue, The Blurry Years begins with a prepubescent Cal, who spends the early part of her life being dragged from town to town by her flighty, sometimes volatile, single mother. At the start of the novel, Cal finds herself wedged into a number of makeshift nuclear families, where the turbulence is constant, until her unemployed mother finally whisks them off to an old high school friend she grew up with. Kriseman's narrative follows Cal's growing pains through her sexual exploits and search for independence.

The acknowledgements in the back of the book suggest that the book is purely a work of fiction. Yet the delicate but firm prose Kriseman establishes in her study of a young women on the peripheries of life rings clear with such sincerity that you're apt to take this story as a lived truth. Laid out like a series of vignettes, The Blurry Years presents its narrative in short bursts of drama, tracing Cal's trajectory of a young girl yearning for the love of a number of boys to her blossoming attraction to women.

The success of the story is due, mainly, to its careful plotting of events; for such a compact novel, Kriseman gets good mileage out of her protagonist, who runs the gamut of trying experiences and emotions. The author never skimps on the psychological depths of her characters, even when the narrative pitches from setting to setting, introducing her cast to new dynamics with each successive development.

It's difficult to pinpoint an exact target audience and age group here. Much of the narrative seems an ideal read for young adults. In addition to the aforementioned Nietzke and Colwin (authors who have written about the experiences of grown women), Kriseman's work seems also very much aligned with the female-centric themes found in the works of young adult author Judy Blume, a notable writer of the emotional complexities of teenage girls.

This is clearly also a story of a young girl marshalling all of her insecurities and determinations into the world of the adult; the novel is balanced on the precarious and fleeting moment of adolescent transition, the interstices in the life of a teen just shifting into her 20s. Most of the demanding crises occur in Cal's later years as a teen, when her sexuality becomes at once a burden and a source of enlightenment. At some point, Cal wakes up to the possibility of her attraction toward women and, though the feelings are circumvented and cached through the emotional subterfuge of inexperience and fear, it becomes increasingly clear how much of her sexual identity is the crux of this story.

Through the ruminative, poetic fog, there's the clear-minded voice of an author who has managed to bridge a sequence of narrative information together with simple elegance and efficiency. It will be most interesting to see how Kriseman develops as a writer in the years to come. At this moment now, The Blurry Years seems to point the way toward smart, purposeful fiction about the intricacies and nuances of young adolescent women.

* * *

Eleanor Kriseman reads from The Blurry Years for PopMatters.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.