03

C+
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July 21, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Judging by the number of alienated adolescents moping through its films and literature, France must be a fountain of disaffected youth. The teenage solipsist at the center of Jean-Christophe Valtat’s 03, this French sliver of a novel quotes such heavy-burden bands as the Smiths and Joy Division while reflecting on his life with such cynical despondency that you can almost hear him sighing with each word. Everything is a poignant signifier: Cars aren’t cars, they are ”sexual prostheses,” and street asphalt is somehow ”cold magma frozen into tarmac by the organized disaster called society.” Still, some of his inner monologue, which takes place entirely in a single moment at a bus stop, manages to ring true and leaven all that seriousness. C+

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