On Reading Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

Ah, 13! Half angel, half angst.

Ah, 13! Half angel, half angst.

August 16, 2013

As I read the very first page of Lullabies for Little Criminals, I was transported back in time to my first reading of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Partially, it was the blatant  use of symbols; partially, it was the gritty and urban settings. Mostly though there is something so engrossing about the way the two protagonists (Baby and Holden respectively) are so self-absorbed. They are teenagers in an adult and corrupt world and as much as they are worldly, they are still completely naïve. There is also a second similarity: like Salinger, Heather O’Neill can deliver a sentence and make it sing. She lays them down like bare wire. Actually, by page 6, I started copying out some of my favorites, and thought they were worth a share. Here are my favorite lines from Lullabies for Little Criminals and (just like Salinger) you don’t even need context to appreciate the words:

Page 6: “There is always the sound of children roller skating at the end of every record.”

Page 46 – “I guess it was worth having your self-esteem destroyed if there was a free toy involved.”

Page 83 – “There’s no use talking to someone who’s being nostalgic.”

Page 83 – “It felt like the kind of song that people who weren’t in love would make love to.”

Page 184 – “It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you.”

If you loved The Catcher in the Rye, Lullabies for Little Criminals is a lovely contemporary take on teenage alienation.



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