Megan's Reviews > Story of a Girl

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: nook-book, not-mine-library, young-adult
Read from February 05 to 06, 2012

We all went to highschool with that girl. You know, the slutty one. Maybe she had sex with her boyfriend in the band room after school. Or with multiple guys in the alley behind the grocery store. Or gave head to a member of the soccer team during a party. Or maybe she didn't? But whether she did or not doesn't really matter. Because these sexual gossip stories and labels are how she will be defined by her peers.

The Story of a Girl is the story of Deanna Lambert, a girl who was discovered to be having sex with a 17 year old friend of her brother when she was only 13. Four years later, Deanna's self-esteem is worse than it was back then, she only has two friends, and is labeled the town slut. In addition she comes from a low income, incredibly dysfunctional family. Speaking of her family, Deanna's father was the one who initially discovered her in a sexual act with the older boy. This created a hot mess of tension between father and daughter which is still affecting their relationship.

As someone who grew up in a small Ohio town, I found this story as well as Deanna's slut-shamming to be very realistic. Kudos to all of you lucky enough to experience your adolescence in a large city. Or an enlightened part of the country. In the heart of the Midwest, those stories do stay with girls long after they should.

While there are a ton of realistic YA novels dealing with sexuality, self-esteem, friendship and family issues, very few of them feel nearly as realistic as Story of a Girl. Deanna struggles with conflicted feelings towards sex, jealously of her only female friend, maintaining a platonic relationship with her only male friend, and idolizing her older brother. Deanna also suffers a whole mess of issues revolving around her father, as well as her mother. What makes this book so unique is that Deanna is not the sort of YA protagonist to look up to. She doesn't always make the right decision or say the right thing. She is troubled, insecure and secretive. There is no big epiphany at the end or heartwarming moment. But in all of Deanna’s interactions, words and thoughts there is an honesty that is often missing from YA novels.

So why only three stars? As I mentioned, Deanna is a mess. Yet at the end, things appear to be looking up. Author Sara Zarr did not shy away from creating a fucked up situation, but when everything was said and done… everything turned out okay. Granted Zarr showed us the rationale for Deanna’s bad behavior. But no matter how justified crappy behavior is, there are usually consequences. I just don’t buy that relationships will go back to the way they were, or even become stronger after a person acts like a jerk. Unfortunately that is the only thing I find disappointing in Zarr’s novels. She has a talent for making unlikable characters sympathetic, but seems unwilling to let anything bad happen to them once they and their baggage have been introduced.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Vinaya (new)

Vinaya I have very conflicted feelings about this... on the one hand, it's true that giving a happily-ever-after, rainbows-and-roses ending to people in a fucked up situation doesn't seem quite true to life; but at the same time, I do like me those happy endings! That's actually one of the reasons I like YA - I almost never have to wonder if the book is going to have a happy ending, because that's pretty much guaranteed. The more 'realistic' sort of novel always leaves me depressed for days, and I guess most YA authors would prefer to go for the more uplifting sort of feeling.

Cory Hmmm.... I completely agree, but I kind of felt like the book was incomplete. I wanted more consequences. I wanted her to deal with her friends, with people finding out that she saw Tommy again, etc, etc...

I don't like happy endings, but I want... finished endings? And the book didn't feel finished to me. That's how all of Zarr's novels feel.

message 3: by Aly (Fantasy4eva) (last edited Feb 09, 2012 09:38AM) (new) - added it

Aly (Fantasy4eva) it's great to see different thoughts from my own on this book. nomes review was one of the first neg i read and it did make me take a step back and re-evaluate things. yours makes me want to do the same. tempted to give it a reread. beautifully thought out and written

Megan Vinaya, Hey! Haven't seen you for awhile, it's nice to see the little green bookworm again :) You're right realistic YA is usually so very depressing and it is nice to end on a happy note. But I think Cory got it right when saying this novel felt unfinished. In the end, Deanna kept her friends, Tommy respected her right to say 'no', her brother's marriage seems to be back on the right track, and things with her parents are looking up. Somehow, I don't see all of these fragile relationships working out in the long run. I want things to work out for Deanna, but have a hard time believing they will work out as easily as we are led to believe.

Cory, the only other Zarr book I read was How to Save a Life and I felt the same way. Such damaged people and heartbreaking moments... and everything is okay at the end? No, I don't buy it.

Aly, thanks :) I'll have to check out Nomes review. All of my gr friends love Zarr and I feel a little guilty for not being quite as head over heels for her! Love the writing, but want more at the end.

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