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Girl Crazy 

Russell Smith (HarperCollins)

Sadly, Russell Smith’s male protagonists have not learned anything in the 18 years since his debut How Insensitive: Justin is another white, middle-class, artistically unsatisfied Toronto wimp, whining about his dead-end life as a college teacher. And he too thinks with his love stick, another play-it-safe dude in pursuit of another so-called “dangerous” woman with tattoos and piercings, thongs and underground contacts. As Justin becomes more involved with Jenna and her circle of drug-dealing, pet-pitbull friends, the tougher he becomes, but the result is more like the small yappy dog in the park. Smith ably observes the invisible boundaries within cities: how neighbourhoods, ethnicity, education and class divide, but this is old territory. For a book that takes risks with modern relationships in Hogtown, stick to Zoe Whittall’s Holding Still for as Long as Possible.

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