Posts Tagged ‘Jennie Fagan’

panopticanI know that Anais Hendricks, the fierce heroine of Jenni Fagan’s fierce first novel, The Pantopticon (Crown, digital galley) is Scottish, but I keep picturing the 15-year-old chronic offender as Bullet, the throwaway Seattle street kid on this season of AMC’s The Killing. The spiky hair, the multiple piercings, the fake tattoo, the boyish swagger and constant profanity. It’s all protection for a vulnerable heart.
Anais has blood on her school uniform when she arrives at the Pantopticon, a residence for foster-care outcasts and deliquents housed in a former prison whose central watchtower allows for constant surveillance. The blood may or may not belong to a police officer lying in a coma. Anais, coming off a ketamine-induced high, doesn’t remember the altercation, but she realizes that “if the pig dies” she’ll be locked up in a secure unit until she’s 18. She’d rather be dead.
Meanwhile, she knows she’s some eager social worker’s project. “As specimans go, they always get excited about me. I’m a good one. A show-stopper. I’m the kind of kid they’ll still enquire about 10 years later. Fifty-one placements, drug problems, violence, dead adopted mum, no biological links, constant offending.”
Anais shifts her narration between incidents from her checkered past to her interactions with the Pantopticon’s other residents: Isla, a self-harmer with toddler twins and AIDs; Tash, who’s on the game to earn money for her future with Isla; Doug, who jumps off a roof in a bid for freedom; Shortie, who’s good with her fists.
A past boyfriend texts her from jail.The police continue to interrogate her. An old monk in another lock-up supposedly remembers her birth in an asylum. “He said I was the daughter of a cigarillo-smoking Outcast Queen. . .He said she flew intae the nuthouse on a flying cat.” Anais, paranoid from the drugs, wonders if she’s schizophrenic, knows she’s damaged goods. But dreadlocked social worker Angus encourages her to believe in herself, to do something with her life.
“I dinnae say I might paint when I grow up. I dinnae say I’ll learn French. . .I dinnae say I’ll volunteer to help some old lady with her shopping…she’ll take me under her wing and get tae like me and feed me apple pie and gin — and tell me all her stories about the good old days.”
What will happen to Anais, let down by everyone she ever trusts? Will she ever have good new days? Please don’t let her end up like Bullet. Don’t go breaking my heart.

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