Juliet the Maniac

A Novel

Paperback
$19.99 US
| $25.99 CAN
On sale Apr 09, 2024 | 336 Pages | 978-1-68589-127-5
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
"For fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Juliet the Maniac is a worthy new entry in that pantheon of deconstruction ... Dazzling."—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

A cult-favorite stylist holds nothing back in this darkly funny, unromantic look at the underbelly of coming-of-age and its brutal trials…


Juliet is a typical teenage girl—a little beast.

Lingering just underneath Southern California’s sunny, sandy beach culture, one young woman struggles to survive herself as she hurtles through the mid 90’s and tries to make sense of her on-and-off relationship with recovery. 

Juliet knows she should be poised for success. She knows her honors English teacher shouldn’t be changing her grades from F's to C's out of pity, knows she shouldn’t be snorting coke and chain-smoking at the Palms, knows she shouldn’t be hallucinating shadowy, Joan-of-Arc-like messages from God. But there is something dark and violent inside of her fourteen-year-old heart that makes it impossible for Juliet to stop self-destructing. The two forced hospitalizations didn’t help her, neither did the outpatient facility for gay, depressed art kids—maybe Redwood Trails therapeutic boarding school will? 

Through her Didion-esque lens, Escoria captures the brutality of girlhood—its fleeting, toxic friendships, the monstrous ways anger transforms, and the constant feeling of being close to normal, but not normal at all.
WHY I’M SCARED OF BIRDS

I always took a shortcut through a vacant field. It had been undeveloped for years, a blank square behind the mall at the top of the hill, before you got to the stucco apartments. Once the plants in it had been green and pretty, tall grass with bushes and wildflowers. It didn’t look like that anymore. Everything had turned chalky and gray. The dead grass crinkled when I stepped on it. At the far end of the field, there was a whole flock of crows, dozens of black marks like a pox.

I expected them to fly away as I got closer, but they didn’t move. They were black, black, black all over, claws to beak, and I felt their black-bead eyes following me.

I decided to sit down in the dirt, try to get the shadows to go away by willing myself solid and impassive like a tree. But the shadows caught up with me, and there were more of them now, shifting from shapes into pieces of people. Disembodied limbs, screeching mouths, long rotted hair. Ghosts. Wanting something from me, for me to do something, as if I could break their suffering and deliver them to heaven. They were saying something but all talking at once, and I couldn’t make out what they said. The crows were still watching me. They began to caw. They were all trying to tell me something. They were all trying to tell me what to do. The sun shone through the thick clouds, a yellow blob in the sky.

My heart beat faster, faster until it was just one long thrum. The molecules around my head buzzed, the crows cackled, the shadows clung at me, and all of it was cloaked in doom. The poison in me was spreading, burning like bile in my veins, dismantling cells and becoming contagious. It would spread into my parents, into Nicole. The only way to get the evil out, to exorcise the ghosts, was to choke it. To choke myself. It was the only way. I stood up and it began pouring rain.

When I got home, I was soaked. My parents were getting ready to leave for dinner. They seemed surprised to see me, surprised that I was soaking wet. “I didn’t know it was raining,” my dad said.

A new Mexican restaurant had opened up near the gas station. “Do you want to come?” my mom asked. I told her no. “Are you OK? You look sick,” she said. I said I was fine. I was just tired, I was just cold and wet. I said I would take a hot shower. They left.

The Other Thing took over, pushing me into the bathroom. I watched my hand take out my medicine—Tegretol, Wellbutrin. The pills poured onto the counter in a neat pile. It didn’t seem like enough. I walked into the kitchen, the tiny cupboard where my mom kept the vitamins and headache medicine. There was a big bottle of Tylenol from Costco. There was a smaller bottle of Benadryl too. I set both of them down on the counter. I grabbed one of the kitchen chairs. I dragged it in front of the fridge. There was a bunch of liquor bottles on top. I grabbed the gin. I stepped down, got a tall glass. I poured the gin into it until it was full. I didn’t put the bottle back. I took the glass and the pill bottles and went into the bathroom. I poured the Tylenol and Benadryl out next to the other pills, threw all of the bottles in the trash. They looked pretty—the white of the Tylenol and Tegretol mixed with the bright pink and red of the other pills. I grabbed a handful, shoved them in my mouth, swallowed them with the gin, until it was all gone. They went down my throat so easy it was like they belonged there.

I went into my bedroom. The lights were off and the room was very dark. I lay down on the bed. My eyelids grew heavy and I closed them. Everything felt thick and dumb. I think I fell asleep. I dreamt I was tied, my hands behind my back, my feet together. Someone had lit me on fire. The flame that burned me was very white and very hot, but it didn’t hurt. I couldn’t see anything else but flames. I lost place of my body. I became the fire.

And then my dad was shaking me. I opened my eyes and the fire was gone. He was sitting on the bed, over me. It looked like there were three of him. My mother was over his shoulder. There were three of her too. Her face glistened, I think she was crying, and the tears glowed, brilliant as stars.

The next thing I knew, I was in the car. My mother was in the backseat with me. My face was against the window, the glass cool on my cheek. She kept on saying my name over and over, her hand grabbing my arm. It seemed too difficult to answer her and so I didn’t. We were on the freeway and the other car lights went by in streaks and blurs, like lines of fire.

A Bustle MOST ANTICIPATED NOVEL of 2019
A Nylon MOST ANTICIPATED NOVEL of 2019


"an ambitious, piercing and often darkly funny book that leans heavily into autofiction and offers unflinching intertextual glimpses into a manic-depressive life." - ELECTRIC LITERATURE

"For fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Juliet the Maniac is a worthy new entry in that pantheon of deconstruction ... Dazzling."—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
 
“To read Juliet the Maniac is to confront our shared faith in the flawed logic of life’s meaning, and by so doing, become worthier of our humanity …  a gift to any reader who has ever lost control, sighted a horizon and began moving toward it.”THE WASHINGTON POST
 
"Juliet the Maniac is a wild ride of a book, and I was rooting for Juliet every page
along the way."—CHICAGO REVIEW OF BOOKS
 
"A force that shouldn't be ignored — an illuminating examination of youth and soul-crushing pressure."—BUZZFEED
 
"[With] heft and a sense of authenticity, Escoria earns the readers' trust early ... Juliet the Maniac is a heartfelt, raw, powerfully told story about surviving mental illness and learning to cope with inner demons."—NPR.org

"Escoria’s descriptions are moving ... It’s the electricity that pulsates from within the prose. [A] fire burning inside."—BOMB
 
"Juliet Escoria has created a propulsive, addictive story … told with a singular honesty; it can feel brutal—it burns—but it’s also illuminating, and a necessary counterpoint to all those teenage stories that marginalize the girl we actually want to read about.”NYLON
 
“[An] exciting first novel … Juliet the Maniac is one of those coming-of-age stories that will feel so darn personal, you'll wonder if Escoria had a secret recording device in your own teenage heart.”BUSTLE
 
“An author to watch.”MICHAEL SCHAUB, LOS ANGELES TIMES
 
“Writing about emotional turmoil and addiction with a sharp, charged eloquence, Juliet Escoria … is an up-and-coming author.”THE A.V. CLUB

"Achingly accurate language, stripped down but beautiful, makes this story fresh and forthright."LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Searing ... reminiscent of Eve Babitz’s work ... Escoria’s novel is a moving and intimate portrait of girlhood and mental illness."PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
 
"Vivid, fantastic imaginings ... of mental illness and disaffected youth."KIRKUS REVIEWS

"A startlingly honest tale of mental illness and addiction ... Escoria cements her status as one of the most powerful voices in independent literature."THE INDEPENDENT
 
"Escoria here delivers a coming-of-age novel about teenage life and mental illness that's also an explosive work of autofiction. With bold honesty, she tells an unforgettable story that's unhindered by romanticism in its unabashed portrayal of Juliet's darkest struggles.”BOOKLIST
 
"Escoria weaves a story that isn’t just relatable to those with mental illness, but really illustrates what it’s like for those readers who don’t have it …  Escoria’s writing traces the scars in this book with a gentle fingertip, capturing the moments with a dream-like clarity, watching them unfold, knowing what the consequences will be.”—ENTROPY
 
“Brims with dark humor and empathy”—POP SUGAR
 
"You don’t want to miss Juliet the Maniac ... It’s a stunning portrayal of what it’s like to struggle with bipolar disorder, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts as a teenager."—HELLO GIGGLES
 
"A searing, harrowing tale of addiction, the teenage years, and antisocial behavior, all told with Escoria’s intense prose and a blend of tension and empathy."—VOL. 1 BROOKLYN
 
“Equal parts memoir and fiction, we’re given a peek inside the mind of a bright and accomplished teen—despite her perceived odds. Pro tip: Pick this one up when you’re feeling lonely. (You’re not, we’ll figure it out.)”—HYPEBAE
 
Juliet the Maniac is a dark, funny, and heartbreaking portrait of a young teenager’s clash with mental illness and her battle toward understanding and recovery.”—THE FANZINE

"A singularly beautiful piece of work—honest, unaffected, fascinating."NICO WALKER, author of Cherry
 
"Not since Kathy Acker has a writer given us such an unapologetic and dazzling view from the inside-out of adolescence. A voice and style triumph. A brilliant cry against cultural girl inscriptions."—LIDIA YUKNAVITCH, author of The Book of Joan
 
"Juliet Escoria's voice is unmistakable: riveting, harrowing, and funny. In Juliet the Maniac, she tells a story about addiction and mental illness that subverts our expectations and reveals new truths about gender, power, and the unexpected ways we can both heal and be harmed."—EMILY GOULD, author of Friendship
 
"Juliet the Maniac is a late-nineties Bell Jar, a Girl, Interrupted in gloomy sunny Southern California, an autofiction from a former reform-school pirate princess. Teenage girls forever (and other people who exist, too): Read this book."—KATHERINE FAW, author of Ultraluminous
© Scott McClanahan
JULIET ESCORIA is the author of You Are the Snake (Soft Skull, 2024) and Witch Hunt and Black Cloud: New and Collected Works (CLASH Books, 2023). She is the recipient of a fellowship from the Giancarlo DiTrapano Foundation for Literature and the Arts, and her work has been translated into many languages. Her writing can be found in places such as The Southwest Review, VICE, Hotel, BOMB, and the New York Times. She was born in Australia, raised in San Diego, and currently lives in West Virginia. View titles by Juliet Escoria

About

"For fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Juliet the Maniac is a worthy new entry in that pantheon of deconstruction ... Dazzling."—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

A cult-favorite stylist holds nothing back in this darkly funny, unromantic look at the underbelly of coming-of-age and its brutal trials…


Juliet is a typical teenage girl—a little beast.

Lingering just underneath Southern California’s sunny, sandy beach culture, one young woman struggles to survive herself as she hurtles through the mid 90’s and tries to make sense of her on-and-off relationship with recovery. 

Juliet knows she should be poised for success. She knows her honors English teacher shouldn’t be changing her grades from F's to C's out of pity, knows she shouldn’t be snorting coke and chain-smoking at the Palms, knows she shouldn’t be hallucinating shadowy, Joan-of-Arc-like messages from God. But there is something dark and violent inside of her fourteen-year-old heart that makes it impossible for Juliet to stop self-destructing. The two forced hospitalizations didn’t help her, neither did the outpatient facility for gay, depressed art kids—maybe Redwood Trails therapeutic boarding school will? 

Through her Didion-esque lens, Escoria captures the brutality of girlhood—its fleeting, toxic friendships, the monstrous ways anger transforms, and the constant feeling of being close to normal, but not normal at all.

Excerpt

WHY I’M SCARED OF BIRDS

I always took a shortcut through a vacant field. It had been undeveloped for years, a blank square behind the mall at the top of the hill, before you got to the stucco apartments. Once the plants in it had been green and pretty, tall grass with bushes and wildflowers. It didn’t look like that anymore. Everything had turned chalky and gray. The dead grass crinkled when I stepped on it. At the far end of the field, there was a whole flock of crows, dozens of black marks like a pox.

I expected them to fly away as I got closer, but they didn’t move. They were black, black, black all over, claws to beak, and I felt their black-bead eyes following me.

I decided to sit down in the dirt, try to get the shadows to go away by willing myself solid and impassive like a tree. But the shadows caught up with me, and there were more of them now, shifting from shapes into pieces of people. Disembodied limbs, screeching mouths, long rotted hair. Ghosts. Wanting something from me, for me to do something, as if I could break their suffering and deliver them to heaven. They were saying something but all talking at once, and I couldn’t make out what they said. The crows were still watching me. They began to caw. They were all trying to tell me something. They were all trying to tell me what to do. The sun shone through the thick clouds, a yellow blob in the sky.

My heart beat faster, faster until it was just one long thrum. The molecules around my head buzzed, the crows cackled, the shadows clung at me, and all of it was cloaked in doom. The poison in me was spreading, burning like bile in my veins, dismantling cells and becoming contagious. It would spread into my parents, into Nicole. The only way to get the evil out, to exorcise the ghosts, was to choke it. To choke myself. It was the only way. I stood up and it began pouring rain.

When I got home, I was soaked. My parents were getting ready to leave for dinner. They seemed surprised to see me, surprised that I was soaking wet. “I didn’t know it was raining,” my dad said.

A new Mexican restaurant had opened up near the gas station. “Do you want to come?” my mom asked. I told her no. “Are you OK? You look sick,” she said. I said I was fine. I was just tired, I was just cold and wet. I said I would take a hot shower. They left.

The Other Thing took over, pushing me into the bathroom. I watched my hand take out my medicine—Tegretol, Wellbutrin. The pills poured onto the counter in a neat pile. It didn’t seem like enough. I walked into the kitchen, the tiny cupboard where my mom kept the vitamins and headache medicine. There was a big bottle of Tylenol from Costco. There was a smaller bottle of Benadryl too. I set both of them down on the counter. I grabbed one of the kitchen chairs. I dragged it in front of the fridge. There was a bunch of liquor bottles on top. I grabbed the gin. I stepped down, got a tall glass. I poured the gin into it until it was full. I didn’t put the bottle back. I took the glass and the pill bottles and went into the bathroom. I poured the Tylenol and Benadryl out next to the other pills, threw all of the bottles in the trash. They looked pretty—the white of the Tylenol and Tegretol mixed with the bright pink and red of the other pills. I grabbed a handful, shoved them in my mouth, swallowed them with the gin, until it was all gone. They went down my throat so easy it was like they belonged there.

I went into my bedroom. The lights were off and the room was very dark. I lay down on the bed. My eyelids grew heavy and I closed them. Everything felt thick and dumb. I think I fell asleep. I dreamt I was tied, my hands behind my back, my feet together. Someone had lit me on fire. The flame that burned me was very white and very hot, but it didn’t hurt. I couldn’t see anything else but flames. I lost place of my body. I became the fire.

And then my dad was shaking me. I opened my eyes and the fire was gone. He was sitting on the bed, over me. It looked like there were three of him. My mother was over his shoulder. There were three of her too. Her face glistened, I think she was crying, and the tears glowed, brilliant as stars.

The next thing I knew, I was in the car. My mother was in the backseat with me. My face was against the window, the glass cool on my cheek. She kept on saying my name over and over, her hand grabbing my arm. It seemed too difficult to answer her and so I didn’t. We were on the freeway and the other car lights went by in streaks and blurs, like lines of fire.

Reviews

A Bustle MOST ANTICIPATED NOVEL of 2019
A Nylon MOST ANTICIPATED NOVEL of 2019


"an ambitious, piercing and often darkly funny book that leans heavily into autofiction and offers unflinching intertextual glimpses into a manic-depressive life." - ELECTRIC LITERATURE

"For fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Juliet the Maniac is a worthy new entry in that pantheon of deconstruction ... Dazzling."—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
 
“To read Juliet the Maniac is to confront our shared faith in the flawed logic of life’s meaning, and by so doing, become worthier of our humanity …  a gift to any reader who has ever lost control, sighted a horizon and began moving toward it.”THE WASHINGTON POST
 
"Juliet the Maniac is a wild ride of a book, and I was rooting for Juliet every page
along the way."—CHICAGO REVIEW OF BOOKS
 
"A force that shouldn't be ignored — an illuminating examination of youth and soul-crushing pressure."—BUZZFEED
 
"[With] heft and a sense of authenticity, Escoria earns the readers' trust early ... Juliet the Maniac is a heartfelt, raw, powerfully told story about surviving mental illness and learning to cope with inner demons."—NPR.org

"Escoria’s descriptions are moving ... It’s the electricity that pulsates from within the prose. [A] fire burning inside."—BOMB
 
"Juliet Escoria has created a propulsive, addictive story … told with a singular honesty; it can feel brutal—it burns—but it’s also illuminating, and a necessary counterpoint to all those teenage stories that marginalize the girl we actually want to read about.”NYLON
 
“[An] exciting first novel … Juliet the Maniac is one of those coming-of-age stories that will feel so darn personal, you'll wonder if Escoria had a secret recording device in your own teenage heart.”BUSTLE
 
“An author to watch.”MICHAEL SCHAUB, LOS ANGELES TIMES
 
“Writing about emotional turmoil and addiction with a sharp, charged eloquence, Juliet Escoria … is an up-and-coming author.”THE A.V. CLUB

"Achingly accurate language, stripped down but beautiful, makes this story fresh and forthright."LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Searing ... reminiscent of Eve Babitz’s work ... Escoria’s novel is a moving and intimate portrait of girlhood and mental illness."PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
 
"Vivid, fantastic imaginings ... of mental illness and disaffected youth."KIRKUS REVIEWS

"A startlingly honest tale of mental illness and addiction ... Escoria cements her status as one of the most powerful voices in independent literature."THE INDEPENDENT
 
"Escoria here delivers a coming-of-age novel about teenage life and mental illness that's also an explosive work of autofiction. With bold honesty, she tells an unforgettable story that's unhindered by romanticism in its unabashed portrayal of Juliet's darkest struggles.”BOOKLIST
 
"Escoria weaves a story that isn’t just relatable to those with mental illness, but really illustrates what it’s like for those readers who don’t have it …  Escoria’s writing traces the scars in this book with a gentle fingertip, capturing the moments with a dream-like clarity, watching them unfold, knowing what the consequences will be.”—ENTROPY
 
“Brims with dark humor and empathy”—POP SUGAR
 
"You don’t want to miss Juliet the Maniac ... It’s a stunning portrayal of what it’s like to struggle with bipolar disorder, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts as a teenager."—HELLO GIGGLES
 
"A searing, harrowing tale of addiction, the teenage years, and antisocial behavior, all told with Escoria’s intense prose and a blend of tension and empathy."—VOL. 1 BROOKLYN
 
“Equal parts memoir and fiction, we’re given a peek inside the mind of a bright and accomplished teen—despite her perceived odds. Pro tip: Pick this one up when you’re feeling lonely. (You’re not, we’ll figure it out.)”—HYPEBAE
 
Juliet the Maniac is a dark, funny, and heartbreaking portrait of a young teenager’s clash with mental illness and her battle toward understanding and recovery.”—THE FANZINE

"A singularly beautiful piece of work—honest, unaffected, fascinating."NICO WALKER, author of Cherry
 
"Not since Kathy Acker has a writer given us such an unapologetic and dazzling view from the inside-out of adolescence. A voice and style triumph. A brilliant cry against cultural girl inscriptions."—LIDIA YUKNAVITCH, author of The Book of Joan
 
"Juliet Escoria's voice is unmistakable: riveting, harrowing, and funny. In Juliet the Maniac, she tells a story about addiction and mental illness that subverts our expectations and reveals new truths about gender, power, and the unexpected ways we can both heal and be harmed."—EMILY GOULD, author of Friendship
 
"Juliet the Maniac is a late-nineties Bell Jar, a Girl, Interrupted in gloomy sunny Southern California, an autofiction from a former reform-school pirate princess. Teenage girls forever (and other people who exist, too): Read this book."—KATHERINE FAW, author of Ultraluminous

Author

© Scott McClanahan
JULIET ESCORIA is the author of You Are the Snake (Soft Skull, 2024) and Witch Hunt and Black Cloud: New and Collected Works (CLASH Books, 2023). She is the recipient of a fellowship from the Giancarlo DiTrapano Foundation for Literature and the Arts, and her work has been translated into many languages. Her writing can be found in places such as The Southwest Review, VICE, Hotel, BOMB, and the New York Times. She was born in Australia, raised in San Diego, and currently lives in West Virginia. View titles by Juliet Escoria