The Virgins

Pamela Erens (Author)


* A New York Times Editor's Choice selection
* A Chicago Tribune Editor's Choice selection
* A Best Book of 2013, The New Yorker
* A Best Book of 2013, The New Republic
* A Critics' Choice selection for 2013, Salon
* A Best Indie Title of 2013, Library Journal
* One of Redbook's "Top Ten Beach Reads of 2013"
* One of O Magazine's "Ten Titles to Pick Up Now," August 2013
* Featured in The Millions's "Most-Anticipated" List 2013
* A "This Week's Hot Reads" selection, The Daily Beast
* A Vanity Fair Hot Type selection
* The Virgins was a finalist for the John Gardner Award

* Publishers Weekly named The Virgins one of the best boarding school books of all time

It's 1979, and Aviva Rossner and Seung Jung are notorious at Auburn Academy. They're an unlikely pair at an elite East Coast boarding school (she's Jewish; he's Korean American) and hardly shy when it comes to their sexuality. Aviva is a formerly bookish girl looking for liberation from an unhappy childhood; Seung is an enthusiastic dabbler in drugs and a covert rebel against his demanding immigrant parents. In the minds of their titillated classmates--particularly that of Bruce Bennett-Jones--the couple lives in a realm of pure, indulgent pleasure. But, as is often the case, their fabled relationship is more complicated than it seems: despite their lust and urgency, their virginity remains intact, and as they struggle to understand each other, the relationship spirals into disaster.

The Virgins is the story of Aviva and Seung's descent into confusion and shame, as re-imagined in richly detailed episodes by their classmate Bruce, a once-embittered voyeur turned repentant narrator. With unflinching honesty and breathtaking prose, Pamela Erens brings a fresh voice to the tradition of the great boarding school novel.

Product Details

Tin House Books
Publish Date
August 06, 2013
5.0 X 0.9 X 7.7 inches | 0.75 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Pamela Erens was raised in Chicago and attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, where she concentrated on literary theory and women s studies. For many years she worked as a magazine editor, including at "Glamour." Her editing and freelance journalism have won national awards.
Erens s first novel, "The Understory," published in 2007, was the winner of the Ironweed Press Fiction Prize and a finalist for both the 2007 "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize for First Fiction and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Erens has also published short fiction, poetry, and essays in literary journals and magazines ranging from "Chicago Review" and "New England Review" to "O: The Oprah Magazine." She is the recipient of two New Jersey State Council on the Arts fellowships in fiction and was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference.


The metaphysics of The Virgins [is] that the potential eroticism in all things makes them all secretly significant.
The Virgins does qualify as a new classic and students of the form will read it again and again.
With a cover like this, who could resist a peek? What lay inside was even more riveting than the titillating, slightly disturbing, Lolita-esque photo that first encouraged me to have a go. A prep-school saga about sex, rumors, young love, and adult regret, The Virgins encouraged its readers to feel as frenzied, and libidinous, and strung out as a 17-year-old in the throes of first lust. This small, smart masterpiece is a beautiful shot of adrenaline--with a terrifying come down.
The Virgins reminded me how gratifying it is to fall into a good novel--one that feeds the senses and makes us think.
Suspenseful and swift and well made, The Virgins, Pamela Erens's exciting new fiction, ratchets up the heat on the boarding school novel with ferociously sensual descriptions of frustrated love--love imagined and love experienced. Easy to fall for this book and fall hard.
The Virgins is a stunningly beautiful novel. It is precisely observed, skillfully constructed, and brilliantly written. This is possibly the best novel of the many good ones set in a New England prep school, that terrain of elegance and envy, of flowering and blight.