Janet Maslin in the New York Times:
Of all the artists who shaped Ms. Smith’s persona, Mr. Dylan is arguably the one she worshiped most. She describes the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud, another of her heroes, as looking like the 20th-century Mr. Dylan, rather than seeing things the other way around. So it makes perfect sense for her to use a memoirist’s sleight of hand, as Mr. Dylan did, to recapture an eager, fervent and wondrously malleable young spirit. It also makes sense for her to cast off all verbal affectation and write in a strong, true voice unencumbered by the polarizing mannerisms of her poetry. This Patti Smith, like the one in Steven Sebring’s haunting 2008 documentary “Patti Smith: Dream of Life,” is a newly mesmerizing figure, not quite the one her die-hard fans used to know.
In “Just Kids” Ms. Smith writes of becoming pregnant at 19 (“I was humbled by nature”) in New Jersey, giving up her baby and heading to New York for a fresh start. Describing herself as “I, the country mouse,” she writes of heading to Brooklyn to visit friends and discovering that those friends had moved away.
In a back bedroom of their former apartment she encountered Mapplethorpe for the first time: “a sleeping youth cloaked in light,” a beautiful young man who resembled a hippie shepherd at a time when Ms. Smith had been contemptuously described as looking like “Dracula’s daughter.”
Thus fate introduced Ms. Smith and Mapplethorpe, who would become roommates, soul mates, friends, lovers and muses. Strictly speaking they were never starving artists in a garret, but the romanticism and mythmaking of “Just Kids,” and their tenancy in the tiniest room at the Chelsea Hotel, brings them pretty close to that ideal.