Story of a Girl: A Novel review

Story of a Girl: A Novel by Sara Zarr

Little Brown, 2007. 978-0-316-01453-3

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Deanna was caught by her father having sex with her brother’s friend Tommy in the back of a car and three years later, Deanna is still trying to figure out what happened. Her father will barely look at her, her mother wants to believe that everything will magically be okay, her brother and his girlfriend have to deal with being teenage parents, Tommy leers at her when he sees her, and she is batting conflicting feelings for her friend Jason. Having sex with a then high school senior has marked Deanna as a whore and a slut (among other things), but doesn’t want that one event to define who she is or who she wants to become. Her only outlet is a journal in which she writes a story of a girl on the waves, whose situation mirrors her own.

Why I picked it up: It was featured in a blog post talking about books with characters in situations that place them outside the “artificial world where parents work for unnamed people at unnamed jobs yet either receive masses of money, or conversely can’t get jobs at all”.

Why I finished it: The story is fast-paced and draws the reader in within the first few pages which describes the night that Deanna was caught by her father in the back of Tommy’s car. As a narrator, Deanna is easy to relate to, even if we are not in her same shoes: struggling with a sense of identity after making what turns out to be a life-altering mistake seems to be the over-arching theme throughout the book. This is something that not only Deanna is struggling with, but her brother as well, who is living in their parents basement with his girlfriend and their baby daughter. The interpersonal and familial relationships are artfully shown as both the cause and effect for Deanna’s actions as she goes through her summer trying to find a way to deal with if not completely erase this image that has been created of her by her peers and her parents. I found the climactic episode with Jason to be a little bit predictable, and the story dramatically slows at the end as the summer draws to a close, making it harder to stay focused. However, the book is realistic in its portrayal of socioeconomic situations and consequences for one’s actions, which I found eye-opening and refreshing in a literary world where things often need to have a neat ending in order to be satisfying – but it is definitely more for older teens.

Other related materials: Hate List: A Novel by Jennifer Brown; Before I Die by Jenny Downham; Snitch by Allison van Diepen; Sweethearts by Sara Zarr; Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers; Season of Ice by Diane les Bequets; Manstealing for Fat Girls by Michelle Embree; Funny How Things Change by Mellisa Wyatt; Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt; Forever… by Judy Blume

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