... a bracing, full-throttle dive into female coming-of-age in 1980s New York City ... As haunting and nostalgic as a sepia-toned photograph, Age of Consent captures a fascinating era. From the cocaine-fueled art scene to the hangover-hazy Hamptons, the world that Brainerd conjures is one defined both by lingering old-world glamour and crippling new-world carelessness ... Readers will enjoy the whiplash pace even as—like the novel's characters who become increasingly numb to the thrill—they yearn to pump the brakes before it's too late.
Three teenage girls bereft of parental guidance navigate the intoxicating world of New York City in the early 1980s ... Heady and atmospheric, Brainerd’s debut weaves the energy of glamorous, arty, and treacherous Manhattan into the coming-of-age dramas of her three adventurous heroes.
On the surface, Brainerd’s tale is a nostalgic trip into the early 1980s, including an inspired evocation of the Downtown art scene, but her teenage characters make the greatest impact. The takes on parental neglect and the ways young women are taught to see sex as transactional make this more than a throwback.
Brainerd’s debut opens in 1983, and it strains to evoke the charm of that era: David Bowie, shoulder pads, cocaine, and so on. It doesn’t really succeed. Brainerd’s narrative style comes off as flat, her dialogue paper-thin ... Attention alternates between Eve and Justine, but because that narrative voice never changes, it quickly becomes difficult to differentiate between the girls. The reader is told that Eve is culturally sophisticated, Justine sensually aware, but aside from explicit reminders, these traits aren’t readily apparent. A subplot involving another girl inexplicably named India seems quickly sketched and, in the end, unearned: This diversion never quite fits with the rest of the book, and it distracts from what fun might have been had ... Brainerd might have had a beach read in mind, but the novel plods along far more often than it skips.