Filling in the Blanks

BOOK Testimony, By Anita Shreve (Little, Brown, 320 pages, $26)

Bucolic New England landscapes, acceptance letters from Brown, peripubescent boink-fests—Testimony has it all. Shreve’s latest novel depicts, in graphic detail, a drunken sexual jamboree involving three basketball stars and one anonymous freshman nymphet at the illustrious Avery Academy. Which is to say it depicts a slightly tweaked version of the sordid real-life tale of five hockey players and one sophomore girl at Milton Academy in 2005. Admittedly, the fictitious town of Avery, Vermont, sounds little like Milton, Massachusetts, and some themes veer into Duke lacrosse territory (subtle racism, a teenage siren manipulating the jocks), but the book makes good on its title’s promise. Unlike the Milton affair, which was devoid of firsthand accounts, Testimony provides insight into exactly who did what to whom, and why. Though it’s fictional, there’s a trashy gratification in this.

On the downside, Shreve’s prose can at times feel lazy, and the lessons on sexual temptation may scare the bejesus out of parents of teenagers, not to mention childless twentysomethings and moderately empathetic lawn chairs. But what’s a jolt of terror, when we’re privy to an unflinching description of the way "the girl hardly seemed to come up for air"?