Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Story of a Girl (2007) (Little Brown)
Sara Zarr
Grade: C
Genre: young adult
Source: own
TBR RBC 2015: A prize-winning novel 

After being found by her father in the back of Tommy Webber’s Buick aged 13, Deanna Lambert became that girl overnight. Never mind the fact that Tommy was 17 and her brother’s supposed friend. Three years later and Deanna is still known as the ‘school slut’, her father has barely spoken to her since that night and tensions in their house might explode any minute. Deanna wants nothing but a life where one mistake when she was 13 doesn’t precede her. Through confronting the perceptions of the people around her, Deanna begins to realise that starting afresh begins within …

A finalist for the National Book Award in 2007, its preceding reputation (a good one, as a counterpoint to Deanna’s negative one in the book) is what put this book on my agenda and prompted me to buy this way back in 2009 in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, a lot of celebrated American novels can still be difficult to come by in the UK and given my disappointing reaction and response to this, I think this is another example of how different genres and storylines are particular to certain markets.

Deanna’s home life is strained: her father can barely look at her, her mother still tries to pretend that nothing is wrong and her older brother Darren, his girlfriend Stacy and their baby daughter April are stuck in the house’s cramped basement while they save up to move out. Tensions are always high and secretly, Deanna hopes to save up so she can move out with Darren and Stacy too. Though I didn’t love the book, I can’t deny that Sara Zarr is a brilliant writer and there are some wonderfully poignant, heart-wrenching scenes where pent-up emotions finally burst to the surface as characters reach their tipping point.

I can understand why this book has been so celebrated, even if I can’t join in on the celebrations. Deanna has had an inaccurate and poisonous reputation hanging around her neck for 3 years. The majority of people at her school knew about what she had done through Tommy’s bragging and lies and classed her as a slut before she’d even started at the school. This story is about being forced to grow up prematurely, shed preconceptions and one girl’s attempt at building a story for herself. Unfortunately, not one for me, but it’s a good example of all those coming-of-age stories out there.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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