March 2004

Nicole Kohler

fiction

As Cool As I Am by Pete Fromm

In As Cool As I Am, Pete Fromm writes like he is a sullen female teenager, sent to her room after an argument, who picks up the pen and details parts of her life so that someone can see just the type of injustices she have to deal with at home. In a way, anyone who survives the harsh teen years is that person, but Fromm does it a little differently than expected.

Lucy is the narrator of the novel, a tomboy who balances life as well as she balances on the highest jungle gym bars. A self professed tomboy, she’s regarded as one of the guys with her closely cropped hair, and she is considered more than a little strange. Unfortunately, her dad, whom she is very close to, spends months away from home working as a lumberjack in Canada. Lucy’s mom gives her leniency, as long as she keeps the house clean and the cupboard shelves full. She trusts Lucy enough to drive the car home when she goes to work despite the fact Lucy is too young for a license.

This fourteenth year stands out for Lucy. She realizes that most fathers are around for more than a weekend here and there. His trips are like his postcards, blank and surprising. Lucy also realizes that her mother doesn’t pine for her father as much as she originally thought, especially when she realizes her mother is spending more time with a coworker. Her mother’s romance will eventually draw the two into a confidence that shatters Lucy’s allegiance to her father.

The catalyst for these discoveries happens one afternoon when she kisses the boy who bullies her best friend Kenny in order to save Kenny from a beating. Describing the bully’s lips like earthworms, Lucy is left with an unsettling feeling. She and Kenny embark on a "friends with benefits" type of relationship and suddenly, her mother’s advice and makeup kit are welcomed. Lucy grows her hair out, and discovers a little of her feminine side. But one taste of love is not enough for the girl, after Kenny moves away Lucy decides to see someone else on the side in order to satisfy her desires.

Lucy grows older in the book, and surprisingly enough Fromm follows her through the next few years of her life. For a man, he has an uncanny ability to sense a teenage girl’s wishes and thoughts. From angst to anger, from stress to PMS, Fromm deals with it as if he was Lucy, as if he knew exactly what goes on in the mind of a young girl.

Not necessarily sexually explicit, Fromm spares the reader nothing in regards to Lucy’s sexual awakening, including the inevitable love triangle or even the affair mentioned in the book. Lucy is sexually mature long before many of her peers, creating yet another internal rift. Lucy is stunned to find out that her parents have lives other than her, other than each other. And the things she finds out about herself are linked to them as well. In fact, Lucy sees a lot of her parents in herself, a fact she celebrated in the beginning and tries to bury later in the novel.

Thanks to Pete Fromm, Lucy has a strong voice. She deals with the hardships of the teen years, some things better than others. But one thing is certain; Lucy will always be true to herself, no matter what the costs, which is a surprising and welcome thing to read in a book about a young woman. As Cool As I Am by Pete Fromm
Picador
ISBN: 0312307756
388 pages