With or Without You

This darkly funny coming of age tale follows an obsessed baby dyke who kills a dewy daytime TV star.


“[Sanders’s] vibrant, vigorous second novel is a sendup of America’s obsession with pop culture, B-list celebrities, and prison life . . . In lyrical, potent prose, Sanders navigates the terrain of loneliness, obsession and desperation with the same skillful precision as her vulnerable, calculating protagonist.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Summer 1987. Lillian Ginger Speck, high-school graduate, sits in her jail cell contemplating the steps and missteps that led her to murder soap opera star Brooke Harrison in cold blood one bright and muggy New York afternoon. Lily had admired the young star for some time, and her loss is palpable. Her story is therefore part apologia, part love note and suicide pact. Meanwhile, Brooke Harrison’s mother has a tale of her own to tell. In this edgy and compelling “whydunit,” the accounts of predator and victim intertwine. The result is a wry exploration of the contemporary American melting pot of status, beauty, celebrity, violence, and obsession.

With or Without You combines the aching adolescent heart of The Catcher in the Rye with the dark suburban soul of The Great Gatsby—set against the starstruck voyeurism of American Idol. This book asks the quintessentially American question: Is life worth living if you can’t be famous?


Praise for with or without you

“[A] wickedly crafted whydunit . . . Sanders shows a surprising ability to simultaneously make you feel infuriated with and sorry for her borderline-schizo heroine. A-”
Entertainment Weekly

“This psychological ‘whydunit’ provides a compelling and sympathetic look into the mind of an obsessed fan who can’t quite explain what went wrong. Part coming-of-age story and part prison novel, the story explores the fragile relationship between celebrities and our fascination with their lives. Recommended for larger public libraries.”
Library Journal

“Lauren Sanders has written a highly emotional and aching exploration into the adolescent heart of American youth . . . [She] tells a story of a bad girl with compassion and keen understanding that is almost poetic in its total impact.”
NoHo L.A.

“Startling, shocking and heartbreaking . . . dark adolescent noir that gets to the heart of why an obsessed fan kills the object of her desire.”
Philadelphia City Paper

“I hate the term poetic, but Lauren Sanders’s writing has such a slick mean surface and her subject is such a truly bad girl, a murderer. I mean, so that poetic suits With or Without You just fine. It’s a hot poetic book I wouldn’t kick out of bed.”
—Eileen Myles, author of Cool for You and Chelsea Girls

With or Without You‘s heroine, Lillian G. Speck, is an artist, baby dyke, and murderer. She’s also charming and heartbreaking in spite of her crimes. Speck, I wish you hadn’t done it—but I’m happy to have the book that resulted!”
—Jennifer Baumgardner, author of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

“Lauren Sanders’s new novel packs a wallop. With skillful precision, Sanders paints the vivid worlds of hardened young women in prison, aimless teens on Long Island, and the narcissistic world of B-list celebrities. Wicked, fun, disturbing, and heartbreaking, With or Without You is a fearless book that pushes every boundary. It captures perfectly the torment of modern-day adolescence, as well as the utter loneliness of obsession.”
—Nina Revoyr, author of Southland

“Sanders creates vivid characters, major and minor, about whom we care greatly.”
Bay Area Reporter

“Sanders has a great ability to describe and create characters that seem to breathe; they exist believably in reality and fantasy.”
Bust Magazine

“In Sanders’s hands, what is usually cliché or gratuitous is hot.”
—Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls


© 2000–2019, Lauren Sanders. All rights reserved.