Named for the skill with which its adult characters handle their inhibitions, Little Children presents the full cultural and emotional underpinnings of this suburb-shaking event ...will be Mr. Perrotta's breakthrough popular hit, but its undercurrents are more somber ...Mr. Perrotta is too generous a writer to trivialize that. What distinguishes Little Children from run-of-the-mill suburban satire is its knowing blend of slyness and compassion ... In the end Mr. Perrotta presents Little Children as a moment in amber rather than a sudsy melodrama.
In this darkly comic novel, Tom Perrotta reverses Tolstoy's famous dictum and suggests that all unhappy families are unhappy in the same way ...the unnamed Eastern suburb in which Little Children is set appears idyllic, a place where young couples go to work, run errands and raise kids as they plan happy, affluent futures in tidy first homes. But this bourgeois Eden is haunted by two serpents –– one external, one internal ... Subtler but more insidious is a weary dissatisfaction with their partners that frays the fabric of the young married couples' lives as moths waste a garment ... Perrotta's suburban comedy of mannerisms provides lively reading as long as he remains focused on Sarah, Todd and their prematurely frumpy milieu ... A more mature writer might have pulled it off, but Perrotta doesn't, and Little Children feels like two stories imperfectly grafted together, one darkly comic, the other merely dark.
...in Tom Perrotta's black comedy Little Children, Mom and Dad — when they're having sex at all — are doing so with the spontaneity of an alarm clock ... As perceptive social satire, Little Children offers a generous serving of laugh-out-loud moments. But Perrotta deftly keeps the reader off-balance with the troubling goings-on at Blueberry Court... At the same time, he locates the humanity in even the most repugnant characters. A palpable undercurrent of sadness lies just beneath the surface in Little Children; Perrotta knows the white-picket-fence dream is just that. Life is disappointing, sure, but a little bit of breezily sardonic humor goes a long way to ease the pain.