By Whitney Pastorek
March 01, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

The Best People in the World

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In an anonymous review, Zadie Smith once described her own debut novel White Teeth as ”the literary equivalent of a hyperactive, ginger-haired tap-dancing 10-year-old.” The same can be said of this first novel by Justin Tussing, The Best People in the World, an Iowa grad featured in New Yorker?s 2005 debut fiction issue. When 17-year-old Thomas Mahey runs away from home with Alice, his 25-year-old girlfriend/high school history teacher, and a vagrant named Shiloh, they wind up squatting in a house in Vermont through a long winter. It?s a fascinating journey; sadly, vague plot detours, frustratingly kooky-yet-static characters, and a preference for artistic expression over clarity make far too much of that journey a slog. Tussing?s got oodles of promise, but this book — with its obvious efforts at seeming spiritual and mysterious, yet grounded in the good-smelling earth of Americana — is a bit of a mess.

The Best People in the World

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