Told in fragments or brief chapters Jigsaw Youth is a story of and about a young woman named Ella. From adolescence back to childhood back again to the here and now in her early thirties it plays with chronology, and narrative structure.
Scandal´s writing is extremely direct and very raw, and often times it hurts to look at the story, like at a tattoo which is a dick with wings, but was supposed to be a butterfly. It melts different aspects of Ella´s life, her love for music, her sexuality and relationships, with living a fast life on the edge into something that acts like a mirror and what it means being a girl in a male-dominated society, even those life plays out in the underground. The rules are the same, and the rules are stupid. This is something Ella learns by herself very early on. The whole "girls don´t act like that" we all are able to recognize easily.
Jigsaws falling into places. Like with a puzzle one needs to put together pieces which may or may not fit together. Full of raw angst the passion is alive on the page. Tiffany Scandal can hold a small country hostage with her machine gun fire alike writing. There are many a vivid details in her prose that makes it extremely exciting, but also very exhausting to read due the sheer power of raw, almost unfiltered passion. The black and white cutout images in between the chapters serve as a good reminder of the style of Scandal´s writing, which is probably as grime as it can be.
Jigsaw Youth is surely a confrontational and controversial novel, born from anger, pain, passion, while trying to find a place to belong, even it´s "only" away from established paths and on the fringe of what is considered "normal". It´s a product of the subversive underground, from the old DIY punk rock/riot grrrl movements, and the short chapters are the equivalent of a good, fast song. Music plays an important role in the novel, from Henry Rollins to Kurt Cobain to the riot grrrls. As missing figures, bigger than life "what if" prototypes, imagined by Ella to be what they are most likely not, never have been, never will be. Still, those are important as role models, as someone to look up to, and finding her own way through them.
Its introspective art provokes, challenges and destroys. Its insanity is the catharsis for personal wounds, abusive relationships and ghosts in the closet of the mind of a young, impressionable girl, who nevertheless learns not to take shit from anyone. It´s a very sexual novel - scratch that, let´s call it a sensual novel, alas, not in a tillitating way, but sexual in a way what it means to be raped, what it means to come out as a lesbian and how or how not those close by accept and react to it. As a part of life, not as something unrelated and for the sake of telling a sexy story. Coz sexy in that sense it is not.
Jigsaw Youth walks a fine line between the personal and the general, between embracing the anger and cutting the skin that embodies it, which is after all the girls way. I can easily see Jigsaw Youth performing and functioning as a coping mechanism in the hands of someone trying to get a grip on adolescence and adult hood. Dysfunctional and disconnected to the point of a riot as it may be. I could see myself too in Ella, maybe not always relate to her, since her life is a lot wilder, more passionate, more of everything than my own, still...
At times Tiffany Scandal was trying too hard, iE inserting herself, or at least a more mature Ella, into the narrative. If only her grandmother could see herself through the eyes of feminism and as an equal to her male counterpart/s. This seems slightly too far-fetched to be really believeable, though, and the dissonance between Ella´s views vs those of her grandmother, which are very traditional and one can argue outdated and old-fashioned, is gripping even not exactly without clichéd rings to them. Ella´s grandmother is the one who took her in and raised her after her teen parents got to a point where they could no more. Here in the particular scene Ella compares the traditional values of an older woman vs her own which are not yet shaped fully, but starting to come out more clearly. Aka societal "norms" vs her own, wild adventures into womanhood.
Jigsaw Youth could easily be someone´s real story, a punk rock memoir, an auto-biography, even it´s considered to be fiction. Shitty tattoos, shitty music, shitty relationships. The uglier sides of growing up, and fuck-all.
Tiffany Scandal is most definitely someone I will keep an eye on in the future. Her passion is true, her writing great even it gets time to get used to it due its straight forwardness - and I suspect will be dismissed if one does not see past the dirt and dreck of life on the surface.
But you know what? Shout it out loud: girls to the front. Girls can do shit too - and subsequently fuck up as often and hard as men. How we deal with it, now that is a different story.