Tupelo Hassman’s recent novel gods with a little g wants to be a lot of things at once. The overarching attempt causes it to be very little instead.
The book, described by Lydia Netzer as “a story to read when you are starving to connect,” relies on narrative tropes that do nothing to shine a new light on the angsty world of teenage years. The story centers on Helen (or “Hell” for short, because why avoid the obvious?), who is a young lady in the city of Rosary (again, obvious) and who lost her mother to cancer a few years before the narrative begins. She’s stuck with her evangelically religious dad — a prospective plot line that is never explored — and her group of friends intelligently labeled “the Dickheads” by everyone else at school. They drink, they fight, they fall for one another. Eventually, Helen, though almost literally trapped in uber-religious Rosary meets the lunky Winthrop. And despite being always attracted to the jerk Bird, she still feels drawn to Winthrop. See where this is going?
The problems of the novel lie in the avenues of Rosary it never travels. Helen’s aunt, Bev, has certain fortune-telling powers that possibly Helen has inherited but its treated as an aside. The same goes for the fictional California city in which nearly everyone outside of the Dickheads are weirdly Christian in a vague sense. Even the local tire shop, where Helen and her friends gather to drink beer daily, has an owner with an interesting backstory that’s only revealed in the last twenty pages.
gods with a little g is a lot of intriguing presentation but little examination. The picture that it paints is that of confusion that seems inherent in teenage years but it seems that the book does little more than that, especially with a lot of intriguing threads left untied. Due to leaving a lot of questions unanswered, the book reads like mediocre YA trying to conform to literary greatness.
It does little well.