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Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Fiction

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3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  2,063 ratings  ·  361 reviews
Elissa Schappell's Use Me introduced us to a writer of extraordinary talent, whose "sharp, beautiful, and off-kilter debut" (Jennifer Egan) garnered critical acclaim and captivated readers. In Blueprints for Building Better Girls, her highly anticipated follow-up, she has crafted another provocative, keenly observed, and wickedly smart work of fiction that maps America's s ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Simon & Schuster
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kimberly Faith
This collection is lit gold. Elissa Schappell writes about contemporary women so successfully. These girls really suffer. And the boys! Schappell's fate hand is cruel and yet these girls/women muster it all: courage, shame, humor, grace, guilt, and compassion. The stories are interconnected and so there are some heartbreaking unspoken connections the reader can discover, ghostly underpinning. A rape brought up close in one story is referenced in another from the perspective of a friend who can't ...more
Zach
I’m not sure that the girls in Building Blueprints for Better Girls are necessarily better for their experiences, but they are intensely familiar, as if I had studied their blueprints. As you read, it’s hard not to think, Oh, I know her. It’s not that a character reminds you of someone you already know, but that they are rendered with such consistent attention to personal identity that you feel you should know them. You expect to run into them on the sidewalk.

The book elevates self-examination t
...more
Lauren
Daaaaaamnnnn I didn't want this one to end!

Schappell's second book, a collection of short stories, is spot-on. Each story, though separate, blends seamlessly into the next, giving readers a comprehensive view of the characters. This is the perfect choice if you only have pockets of time in which to read - but you won't want to stop at just one story!
Alex Templeton
I remember reading Elissa Schappell’s novel “Use Me” back at the end of high school and not liking it; still, when I read such positive reviews of this short story collection, I was ready to dismiss my high school self’s opinion of Schappell because, goodness knows, my tastes were definitely questionable back then. (I read VC Andrews for fun, for YEARS.) All of this is to say that I was disappointed that I was greatly disappointed in this collection. It’s not because Schappell is necessarily a b ...more
Agnes Mack
I want to buy 1,000 copies of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and hand them out to random passersby on the streets. I want this book to be read, immediately, by everyone I've ever known or will ever know. This is incredible stuff. Easily the best book I've read this year. Possibly the best book I've ever read.

It is a series of short stories that center around women and the relationships we have with one another, with our lovers, with our spouses, our children, our parents. Most of the st
...more
Janine
I can honestly say that I haven't been this disappointed in a book in a VERY long time. This book appeared in just about every magazine from early July through November, so I was pretty psyched to read it. It was a HUGE let down. The book is a compilation of short stories that supposedly intertwines the lives of several women (high school aged through middle aged). Sounds interesting, right? WRONG! I don't know what was more appalling, the disgustingly static characters or the lackluster plot li ...more
Jade McDonough
If I had to describe this book in five words it would be: beautiful, heart wrenching, real, haunting. It has been a long time since I couldn't put a book down without great difficulty. Schappell has written a series of short stories that is so intimately relatable that it's impossible to not feel for these girls.
There are some reviewers who were bemoaning and wanting to know where the "strong" women were in this anthology and the point of this was that these were not strong women. They were real
...more
Abby
Blueprints for Building Better Girls is a cleverly interlocked collection of short stories that explores the various roles women play throughout their lives: as daughters, girlfriends, wives, and mothers, etc.

Schappell's stories try to make the point that to be a woman is to constantly exist in duality: Girlfriends can be sluts, mothers can be resentful caretakers, wives can be the other women, and daughters can be ungrateful and undutiful.

These short stories attempt to explore the compromises
...more
Meryl
Elissa Schappell’s collection of interconnected short stories was one of the best short story collections I have ever read. Each character was distinctly drawn. They were not heroes or antiheroes, but real girls and women struggling with issues that were unique while feeling universal. Her cast of repeating characters each stood on her own, and were then illuminated by how they were seen through other characters’ perspectives. Through her stories, she showed how women are influenced by their exp ...more
TinHouseBooks
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): At the risk of sounding like either a kiss-ass or the literary equivalent of a deranged band aide, I have to cop that I’ve been rereading our own Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls. Elissa read from “A Dog Story,” the second story in the book, at one of the innumerable pre-Brooklyn Book Fest events that were September. I don’t think it was just the after-effects of boozy lit trivia at a prior event that had me teary ...more
Erica
My original plan had been to cross-review this with Shout Her Lovely Name which I'd started reading around the same time I was reading this and realized they'd make great companion pieces.
This one, I read it at home in, like, five days whereas I read the Shout book during my half-hour lunch breaks and it took me a really, super, amazingly long time to get through it. As a result, I've forgotten what I was going to say to compare the two, other than both are books of short stories that explore re
...more
Kellie
Aug 21, 2011 Kellie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Smart women and/or fans of Jean Thompson
Recommended to Kellie by: First Reads
Shelves: first-reads, fiction
I feel really lucky that I won a free copy of this short story collection from the First Reads program. I had never read anything by Elissa Schappell before, but I would recommend her work. The stories in this collection are witty and moving, with well-drawn characters and familiar conflicts. Each story is complete in itself, but there are characters and elements that overlap. The plots include bad relationships, anorexia, rape, infidelity, and motherhood - and always presents these issues in a ...more
Ciara
this book is excellent, but don't let some of the more slavering reviews on goodreads fool you. this is in no way like a "complete & fully-realized novel," nor do the "stories blend seamlessly into one another." what were those reviewers thinking? put down the crack pipe, guys. this is a collection of short stories, & while each one features at least one character that has been featured in another story in the book (sometimes the narrator, sometimes a character so secondary as to not eve ...more
Annalisa
I picked this up as a possibility for a class about female adolescence--the reviews made it sound like it would delve into the lives of girls in a realistic and multi-dimensional way.

Not so much.

All the women in the stories focus on are men and babies. Really, it's no longer cutting edge or radical to have a mom character who regrets having children, or a woman who likes sex, but apparently Schappell thinks these things are still shocking enough that they can support an entire short story.

All h
...more
Pamela
Elissa Schappell ain't afraid about writing about bad girls--or "good" ones either, and she shows how hollow those labels are. Here is a Southern college girl who feels unreal whenever she has a thought her proper mother wouldn't approve of, another who loves to get drunk and risky (her nickname is "Bender"), a mom who isn't sure she should have become one, an anorexic adult who keeps her mother drawn into her fears and obsessions. All are complicated, scales rather than single notes on the keyb ...more
Victoria
I have no idea how to review this book. It's short stories that are connected, but not by much. Short stories are weird, because if they're great, you get pissed when each is over and that's what happened with most of the stories in this book. There are 10 stories with ten endings that leave you hanging...so frustrating!! So for that, it only gets 3 stars instead of 4. Plus the subject matter is so sad. Really depressing. I guess the blueprint is to raise girls who do the exact opposite of the g ...more
Simon & Schuster Goodreads
Don't let the format fool you. Elissa Schappell's collection of short stories, BLUEPRINTS FOR BUILDING BETTER GIRLS (Simon & Schuster, HC 9780743276702, e-Book 9781451607321, September 2011), reads like a complete, fully-realized novel. Schappell introduces eight extraordinary, complex, and wonderfully-imperfect women who make unexpected visits into each other's stories. In the first story, "Monsters of the Deep," we meet an adolescent girl in the 1980s dubbed as the high school floozy, only ...more
Danelle
Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Stories is a collection of eight short stories with a cast of lead female characters who all have a reputation: high school slut, goody two-shoes, party girl, overprotective mom, etc.

The stories all share those moments when you move from being a girl to a woman. They are those moments that you don't celebrate and you don't necessarily talk about. They aren't those 'getting your period' or 'sweet sixteen' moments, they are more along the lines of those 'walk
...more
elka
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eliza
2/6/2012: These stories are painful to read; they hit so very close to home. Girls (or women, depending on your point of view) are searching for love, for connection, for validation--and yet they keep coming up against their own shortcomings, their fears, their shaky self-esteem. My least favorite one--which also makes it the best story in the collection--is The Joy of Cooking. In it, Emily, a 24 year old struggling with anorexia, calls her mother to ask for her roast chicken recipe--she is exci ...more
Jen
This was a really wonderful collection of loosely linked short stories about being a woman, growing up, and just dealing with the little traumas of everyday life. The links between the stories are sometimes small, but I found them very clever. This is one of those books that I don't want to say too much about for fear of ruining the little surprises and enjoyments found in reading.

The women in these stories range in age from teens, to college age, we even the same teenage girl later in life as a
...more
Sarah Beth
I liked this book! I had picked it up over and over again for the past year or so, and then would get distracted and put it down. Happens with this type of books to me a lot-- those about girls and young women, particularly short stories. These linked stories are really interesting-- lots of big issues: rape, eating disorders, love/infatuation, family issues, and handles them with subtlety. Many of the stories are framed as memories, with a character in the present telling her story to somone el ...more
nicole
Apr 04, 2012 nicole rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I enjoyed the dark writing and trying to discover where the characters intersections occurred. While I thought this book was interesting, there was one thing I thought it lacked -- the happy girl. I know first-hand that being a woman is hard and I appreciated this close examination of the thoughts and feelings associated with differing archetypes that are outside of my own experience.

But where is the confident woman, the girl who didn't leave her friend behind at the frat party, who gets riled
...more
Christina G
4.5 stars - this book has not gotten nearly as much hype as it deserves. I picked it up because I'd heard it compared to A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and while it wasn't quite as good as that, I would still highly recommend it to those of you with a dark sense of humor and a feminist sensibility.

The book is made up of 8 short stories (that are sorta linked through recurring characters) about a variety of white, straight women in the 1970s-present day. Sometimes I have trouble ge
...more
Jodi
Every six months or so for the past decade, I’d randomly type ‘Elissa Schappell’ into Amazon’s search bar and cross my fingers. I kept hoping and hoping that she had released a book that some how slipped by me. I fell in love so hard with her collection of linked short stories Use Me that I longed for something else.

When I spied Blueprints for Building Better Girls on some Fall 2011 release list, I bounced in my chair, fist pumping like a member of the Jersey Shore. I was excited.

I marched right
...more
Becky
It's been way too long since I couldn't put a book down. The girls/women in these stories are what I expected, with all it's hype, Heti's "How Should A Person Be?" characters would be like before I read and was disappointed. I can see myself and the women in my life in these stories and relationships. The only thing that I disliked was the male characters were weak and constantly antagonistic to the point that they were unbelievable at times. "Aren't You Dead Yet?" was my favorite (my relationsh ...more
Pia
I wonder if Elissa Schappell is lonely. Because that's the one thread that ties each and everyone of her heroines, each of whom have a story that ties to the one before it. Each of these women are in different stages of their lives, either alienated by sex or gossip or even a stigma they have created themselves. How sad I felt for these women, how utterly painful it was to read some of these, because they left me with an empty pit in my stomach about wanting to raise my daughters "the right way. ...more
Alice Urchin
Bland. Would better be titled Blueprints for Building White Straight Protestant Upper-Middle Class Girls.
Nannie Bittinger
this is the first book I won from a Goodreads give-away. While I don't usually read short stories, because all of the stories in this book intertwined, it made for much more interesting reading for me. Knowing that as I became attached to a character and her expeiences, I would be able to reunite with her later on, made me want to keep reading. The characters were very real, at times, painfully real. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes stories that delve into the human condition in a realistic ...more
Frances
The first story of Elissa Schappell’s collection "Blueprints for Building Better Girls" explodes off the page. The vulnerability, sadness, cruelty and idiocy are like brutal scratches and the familiarity of the emotions like salt on a wound.

Heather has a bad reputation. Slut is shouted more than whispered as she walks through the halls of her high school. Ross is haunted by his recent past as the fat kid. The one in the pool with a long shirt, the one shoved into lockers, his books catapulted to
...more
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“You know what they say - sleep is the mother's drug of choice, but like heroin, only the very rich and the very poor can afford it.” 17 likes
“Don't be a fool, there is no such thing as just a girl.” 11 likes
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