Hope Baugh's Reviews > Big Girl Small

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin
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Mar 01, 12

Read in February, 2012

2012 Alex winner. (The Alex award is given to up to 10 books annually that were published for adults but which also have potential teen appeal.)

Judy is a dwarf (or little person or person of short stature, NOT a "midget.") She is a good writer and has a knock-out singing voice, so she was accepted to the elite performance arts high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her average-sized parents, who run a local restaurant, and her average-sized brothers love her very much. She also has several good friends. However, she is telling her story from a seedy motel room where she fled after "it happened." She takes her own time telling the story because the feelings associated with it are complicated and she is struggling to process all the layers of it, but you guess pretty early on that the beautiful, popular boy she thought she loved and maybe loved her back videorecorded her having sex with him and his friends one night when they were all drunk.

I listened to 2/3 of this book on audiobook CDs, narrated by Tai Sammons. The audiobook narrator had good diction, good emotional expression, and the sound of her voice was in many ways a good match for the snarky-gifted-stunned teenaged main character, but often it seemed as if she hadn't read the book ahead of time and thought about which words needed more emphasis than others. I kept questioning her line readings, which kept knocking me out of the story, even when I ultimately decided they were okay for someone trying to portray a smart teenaged narrator that had had the ground pulled out from under her.

The aural distraction was especially annoying because this isn't the kind of book where you're reading/listening to find out what happens - you know what happened on the surface - you want to know if this likable girl will make it through this horrible experience and come out whole on the other side. In the meantime you're engaged by the skilled use of language, the unusual-to-most-people world view, the vibrant setting, and the tension produced by Judy's struggle to actually say what happened and confirm what you've guessed. And the humor! While I think the audiobook narrator's pacing fit the writing, it made me antsy not to be able to move more quickly through the depressing parts and linger over the joyful and/or fascinating parts and re-read the confusing parts.

I finally got the print version and finished the book that way, and now I wonder if maybe the literary voice of the main character is just so strong and lovely that no actor can do it justice? Or maybe I just wanted to make it come alive in my head myself? I do have control issues. (lol)

Anyway, all that said, I loved this book and plan to re-read it from the beginning in print form after a while. I agree with the Library Journal reviewer that this offers "the old high school ache from a very different perspective and from a good writer, too." I also agree with the Kirkus reviewer that "DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction even as she uses them to pull the readers' heartstrings." More than one professional review used a different name for the boy than the one I remember from the published book and audiobook (the reviews say Jeff instead of Kyle) so I wonder if the name changed in between the ARC and the published book.
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message 1: by Karlan (new)

Karlan Glad to see you posting again because I recall that I often liked the same books you did on Alex. I'll look for this one.


Hope Baugh Thanks, Karlan! I recall the same, in reverse. :-) However, I probably still won't be posting much here until they let me opt out of assigning those dang stars! (lol) 'Hope all is well with you.

Karlan wrote: "Glad to see you posting again because I recall that I often liked the same books you did on Alex. I'll look for this one."


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