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But things were too bright, too happy. So little prepares us for the change. As Holden relates her own state of mind as she approached it, her chief hang-ups seem to have been shyness and uncertainty about her attractiveness.
Friends from high school had beaten Holden to the triumphant benchmark of deflowering while she had remained chaste. In her own words: She joined a rock band and pierced her nose. All it took for her to extend her arm for a needle was a hint of feeling excluded.
A boyfriend spent a night away from her to try heroin. She became obsessed with trying it too. And so, in no time, Holden was hooked and not long after that, hooking to support the habit, first as a streetwalker, then as a registered sex worker in a series of Melbourne brothels.
This is not a book for the squeamish or those delicate about coarse language. Most of it is unquotable in a family newspaper.
Yet in a twist that makes the relentless, graphic succession of stupors and abasements a story worth reading, it is the empathy and self-respect that Holden discovers as a prostitute that gives her the power to eventually beat the drug. Herein lies both the weakness and glory of the book. Holden is so unflinching in her description of the nocturnal sex trade that it would be easy to miss her economy with the sun-soaked world of the family home.