The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anya Blau

4 of 6
The Wonder Bread Summer
288 pages; Harper Perennial
The family you count on isn't always the one you were born with. Such is the case in Jessica Anya Blau's edgy, coming of age novel The Wonder Bread Summer. When 19-year-old Berkeley student Allie steals a Wonder Bread bag full of cocaine in hopes of paying her tuition, she finds herself speeding down the 1980s California coast with a hit man just behind her. Ever-escalating absurdity and her less-than-trustworthy groupie mother force Allie to take refuge with a cast of lovable wackos that includes a paraplegic porn producer, his jovial Mexican driver, Billy Idol and, ultimately, her distant father. Loosely based on Alice in Wonderland (picture: the Cheshire Cat as a grinning mobster), the novel relies on deadpan humor (lovesick Allie thinks wistfully of Billy Idol’s "perfumed hair gel"), as well as plot twists as tight as an ocean highway to keep you reading. Still, it’s the hopeless, hilarious yearnings of Allie that make this book so darn entertaining and so relatable. Not all of us gained our adult wisdom by running off with a plastic sack of drugs, but Allie's longing for a real Mom-and-Dad family is as universal as the realization that any kind of family—be they related to you or not—is plenty real enough.
— Lindsay MaHarry