Teen Reviewed: Shoplifting from American Apparel

Title: Shoplifting from American Apparel

Author: Tao Lin

Summary: Two years in the life of a young writer living in Manhattan. There is no plot, yet readers follow the protagonist Sam with indifference as he gets the job at the vegan restaurant, sends angst-ridden emails to fellow writers, and, yes, attempts to shoplift from American Apparel. The narration and dialogue are blunt to the point of comical; Lin’s autobiographical novella makes ego and understated wit work.

Six word review: Minimalism and self-awareness entertains and saddens.

I started reading because… I was at a loss in a New York bookstore. “Tao Lin” jumped out at me having read about his work in Dazed & Confused magazine, as did the Helvetica font synonymous with ever-hip American Apparel. Plus it was set in Manhattan, so it felt apt.

I kept reading because… it was so entertaining. I recognized and appreciated the portrayal of a slightly aimless, consciously trendy character who at once evoked amusement and despondency. Amid a collection of highly lauded classics on my “to read” shelf, Shoplifting from American Apparel’s modernity is rejuvenating.

What I loved: The lack of adjectives and embellishments. It made for a raw piece that I did not put down until I finished (of course, it is a tiny novella).

If Sam was in a high school yearbook, he would be voted: Most Angsty.

Random line: “He was alone in Sheila’s mother’s house drinking iced coffee and looking at his poetry on the computer screen.”

Online resources: Profile on The Stranger 

– Greta, 16, Teen Center Adviser 


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