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‘Erens brilliantly captures the dark side of adolescence . . . On a par with the likes of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides’ Independent

‘Flawlessly executed and irrefutably true’ John Irving

‘A must for fans of Nabokovian tragedy’ Irish Tatler

The events of 1979-80 reverberate around the campus of Auburn Academy and linger many years later in the mind of narrator Bruce Bennett-Jones. Aviva Rossner and Seung Jung are an unlikely couple at the elite East Coast boarding school and are not shy in flaunting their newly discovered sexuality. Their blossoming relationship is watched with envy and fascination by Bruce and other classmates, who believe their liaison to be one of pure, unadulterated passion and pleasure.

But nothing is what it seems, and as Aviva and Seung struggle to understand themselves and each other, things begin to fall apart. Their ultimate descent into shame and betrayal has disastrous consequences beyond their own lives.


It joins the ranks of the great boarding school novels while somehow evoking the twisted, obsessive narrations of Nabokov's Pale Fire or Wharton's Ethan Frome
Rebecca Makkai, author of The Borrower
Flawlessly executed and irrefutably true
John Irving, The New York Times Book Review
Erens . . . has done a star turn with the prep school tale, giving it meaning for those who might not usually care about that world
Chicago Tribune
A beautifully written story
Sinking into Ms. Erens's prose feels like slipping underwater, in a lake, in the dark: at once gradual and startling; the world outside the novel seems to give way entirely to the world within
It's rare to find a book that summons the delicate emotional state of teenagers . . . without being precious or cynical, but Pamela Erens' The Virgins beautifully manages that feat
Los Angeles Times
What happens between Seung and Aviva, this pair of star-crossed lovers, is truly horrible; the ending shouldn't be given away by a reviewer
John Irving
[A] subtle, accomplished second novel
Book Forum
Now that James Salter is in his twilight years, his considerable fan base will be ecstatic to encounter his heiress apparent, Pamela Erens
Antonya Nelson, author of Bound
Young love, unconsummated, presents its own dangers in Pamela Erens' excellent new novel
Chicago Reader
I did read one 2013 novel I completely loved. It's Pamela Erens's The Virgins . . . makes new-seeming some familiar territory. Aviva Rossner and Seung Jung are lovers at a prep school whose tragic relationship is narrated by a jealous but perceptive narrator, Bruce Bennett-Jones. Prep-school fictions tend toward the nostalgic; this one, though set in the late seventies, feels up to date . . . It's drenched in sexual urges and sexual jealousies, the way sex confers a halo on teenagers that only other teenagers can see
New Yorker Best Books of 2013
This book will nostalgically take the reader back to their teenage years, yet also make them very glad those heart-breaking days are over
This novel has struck a brilliant new seam . . . Erens wonderfully evokes the lethal cocktail of adolescent desire, loneliness and bitter envy
The Times
Erens' lovers are beautifully drawn and The Virgins is a haunting period piece, taking the reader back to a time before teenagers could look to the internet for answers. They were not, it turns out, such good old days after all
Financial Times
A cautionary and heart-wrenching tale of teenage love, with achingly nostalgic overtones that makes it a must for fans of Nabokovian tragedy
Irish Tatler
Erens has written an elegant, clever book about vulnerable individuals trying to make the difficult transition to adulthood in the hothouse atmosphere of an enclosed society
Daily Mail
It is a well-judged piece of writing, simmering with teenage lust and confusion, the author giving readers just enough information to keep them hooked
Big Issue
Stunning . . . Erens brilliantly captures the dark side of adolescence . . . On a par with the likes of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides or Sheila Kohler's Cracks . . . a devastating tour de force
An anthem for doomed youth, an intense tale of teenage failure to make the leap to adult life . . . sensitively told, with Updike-like observation . . . an accomplished work
Independent on Sunday
[Erens] manages a delicate bit of witchcraft such that, by halfway through the novel, our fingertips are humming on the page. And that is due to the way she summons so intensely the momentousness of adolescence, when everything feels big and important, and every moment feels like the one after which you will never be the same again
Pamela Erens lives up to the promises I was given. The writing is startlingly good . . . there isn't a wasted word . . . an insightful look at the nature of love and how it contrasts with lust and need
Erens' novel is at once shocking and familiar, her prose bald, explicit and searingly honest. Best of all, she excels at encapsulating the tumultuous emotions of sexual awakening in all its rawness
Sunday Times
An elegiac account of the doomed teenage love of Seung and Aviva. It deftly explores the complexities of adolescence, that time of experimentation, self-discovery and, potentially, self-destruction
Irish Times