Nami Mun's debut novel ticks lots of boxes: the dangers of the city; the sexual predatoriness of men; the misfits and rebels who make a stand for individualism but are ultimately beaten down by society; the abandoned adolescent who isn't even misunderstood because there's no one who cares enough to misunderstand her. All of it has been written before, but Mun wraps it up in an appealing package, without relying too heavily on sentiment or sensation.
Thirteen-year-old Joon is in the care system but runs away, along with the streetwise teenager Knowledge and the pretty rent-boy Wink, to live on the streets of New York. Some of Joon's experiences – her stint in a sex club, for instance – sounded second-hand to me, as if the author had read up on the subject. (Not that I'm suggesting writers should necessarily experience brothels first-hand if they want to write about them.) But other touches, such as Knowledge stealing her family's Christmas tree, work well and make this an interesting debut.