Her first novel, Kamikaze Lust (2000), won Lauren Sanders praise and a Lambda Literary Award for breathing life into the cliche of the 30th-birthday identity crisis. The series of upheavals–sudden unemployment, crumbling family, a first homoerotic crush–that she dumped on her birthday girl could have easily added up to shlock, but her flair for characters carried the plot. In her new book, With or Without You (Akashic), Sanders charges straight into shock-tactic territory. Set in the 80s, it tells the tale of Lily, a sullen, sapphic teenager with a coked-up poodle mom. The poor little rich girl’s inability to articulate her desires (“I’m not into labels,” she says, when asked if she’s a lesbian) plus easy access to her parents’ stash equals obsession with a soap-opera starlet that ends in murder one. Eschewing easy lectures about media culture and lost generations, Sanders lets the kid speak for herself; most of the book takes the form of Lily’s prison diary, in which she waxes snotty and wistful and details the finer points of sexual envy, railing against the relatively easy access the most doltish penis owner has to the business end of a pretty girl. It’s not the most substantial book, but Sanders’s prose is addictive–I downed it like Lily downs her mom’s quaaludes. With Bee Lavender, author of Lessons in Taxidermy, Tue 4/12, 7 PM, Quimby’s, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Ross.