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History Lesson for Girls

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  378 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
A beautiful and resonant novel about a friendship that shaped a life during a decade of instability

Everyone remembers age thirteen. For Alison Glass, it was 1975, the year she moved to Weston, Connecticut, with her bohemian parents and her horse, Jazz. Life was about trying to navigate the hypocrisies of an unfamiliar affluent town and figuring out how she might blend in
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 6th 2006 by Viking Adult (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30)
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Tabitha Vohn
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-cool-table
I truly enjoyed this story. It was unique; far from the hum drum of a formulaic coming-of-age story. The nostalgia of the 70's was pitch perfect, the neurotic family fascinating, and the tension between female best friends wholly believable.

This is a great escape into a tale that is both light enough for a weekend read and intelligent enough that you won't feel you've squandered your time.
Mar 08, 2007 added it
Shelves: grown-up-books
This book has a very promising first couple of chapters, and the writing's nice, but I was ultimately disappointed. Maybe someone who enjoys more adult books would think differently, but I felt this basically epitomized what I generally find wrong with adult books. It meandered around without any truly strong plot arc. Yes, it's about the narrator, Allie, and her friendship with Kate. It's about her watching Kate's life become worse and worse. It's about her own parents' marriage crumbling, in p ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of the reviews on this book already says "this is a good coming-of-age story for girls -- especially if you grew up in Connecticut in the mid-1970s." That is probably true. That is also the problem -- if you are not into girl coming-of-age stories, or perhaps DIDN'T grow up in CT in the 1970s, you may not get a whole lot out of this.

History Lesson for Girls is somewhat emotionally engrossing, and definitely a quick, engaging read, but I found that the really dramatic topics (parents who scre
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
When I was growing up, I had to go to a special doctor an hour away from my hometown each year - or maybe twice a year, I can't remember - for checkups because one of a slight curvature in my spine, or "mild scoliosis", that the doctors feared would become more pronounced as I got older. Consequently, I was often cautioned to be careful when I was playing, with the threat being that I could end up in a back brace.

This threat was always kind of vague. My parents made it sound really awful, and I
Nov 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
I pretty much love all coming-of-age stories, especially when they are set in a time period in which I did not grow up. It’s as if I have some kind of nostalgia for eras I didn’t truly experience. History Lesson for Girls takes place in the 1970s, & the author truly captures what it would have been like to grow up in suburbia with pot-smoking, hippie guru parents or “nerdy” academic ones. There’s such a fabulous contrast between the households of the two main characters. This novel perfectly ...more
Mar 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a soul
I can't sing the praises of this book enough. Though the ending wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it worked in the context of the character and story arcs. The prose is gorgeous - almost poetic - and the characters are realer than a lot of people I know.

The story follows a young girl (in a backbrace for Scoliosis) as she comes of age in the 1970s, and the girl who she credits with "saving her." You can't help but laugh and cry with Alison and Kate.

My only regret was that I got this book from the lib
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and couldn't put it down despite the troubling dreams it gave me. I suspect some of this story is autobiographical which would explain how very real and genuine the voice of the narrator is. It's a terrific coming-of-age book for anyone who felt different or struggled to fit in during middle school years. I loved the writing and will look for more by this author.
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Quirkiest characters of my summer - I loved them. Deeply crazy families in whole new ways. Great flashbacks to the United States Bicentennial so I suppose this is really my era.

Great writing throughout, sprinkled with gems:
"By the time we made it back to the kitchen, smoke was billowing from the oven: another platter of hors d'ouevres destroyed by circumstance."
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'd been looking forward to reading this book for awhile, largely because of its setting. History Lesson for Girls takes place in Weston, Connecticut, during the 1975-76 school year, when Alison Glass and Kate Hamilton are in the eighth grade. Alison's family moved to Weston from Norwalk, just a couple of towns away, during the summer, for the schools. My family lived in Norwalk at that time, too; I was in the sixth grade during that year leading up to our nation's Bicentennial. Weston is one of ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
R.L. Martinez
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
However, this book was not well structured. I never understood what the "History Lesson" was supposed to be. Furthermore, Alison says in the beginning of the book that Kate "saved" her life. But I never saw Kate as anything but a pretty destructive, selfish force. She really seemed wrapped up in her own turmoil and did not look very far outside herself. I could never connect with her. Actually, I could never connect with ANY of the characters. They all seemed either really spineless or incredibl ...more
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, chick-lit
Overall this book was a really great read. It reminded me very much of the coming-of-age tales I used to read loads of in my early 20s, but it also very much reminded me of books I read as a pre-teen and teenager as well, especially because of the horse theme, not that it's all about that. Far from it! It's actually a lot darker than that. I think the only reason I can't give it 5 stars as it doesn't leave me with that 'wow, this book changed my life' or stayed-with-me feeling, but it certainly ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
The nostalgic look at the 1970's was very entertaining and pleasant to read. However, the book definitely didn't keep me reading because of the quality of the writing- it proved to be a very easy read with a "bathtub novel" kind of feel.

I despised the parents of both Alison and Kate- I mean, I don't think you're supposed to like them (the author personified them with the easy parenting style of the 70's for a reason), but I had trouble trucking through some of the more frustrating parts of the n
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Things I liked about this book:

1) I liked the realistic (and searing) way adolescent meanness was depicted; I think this is the first book in a LONG time that has made me remember what it was like to be in middle school and how mean people could be. (Including, of course *cringe* me.)

2) I liked how it was set in the 70s, and how it made me think about how different (or not) it would have been to grow up then instead of the early 90s.

3) I liked the crazy parents. Mine are so boring and normal, th
Oh yes ladies - book club has finally arrived :)

Book club went really well with this book - it was far more tragic than I had anticipated (the book, not the club), but was a cool look at how a friendship changes.

It was super cool because they were growing up in Connecticut (like me) and there were lots of things in there that brought me right back to growing up up there. Tigerlilies being everywhere was one of those things, but there were many many.

I wasn't sure about the girl's story interlaced
Apr 09, 2009 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good book. I will definitely look for more by this author, as I enjoyed her writing. At first the format was a bit confusing, the way the chapters were preceded by small sections of a second story, the book that the characters were writing. The ending was sad, but it was foreshadowed throughout, and you know that things turn out okay for the main character, so it's not as shocking or disturbing. I think the character development was fairly weak, and there were parts that left m ...more
Dec 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Bleh. I found this book to be dreadful. I kept waiting for it to get better, but it never did.

Allison is a young girl who has debilitating scoliosis that requires her to wear an ugly brace. Her hippie parents move her to a ritzy town in Connecticut where she is constantly tormented by her peers. She winds up meeting Kate, a girl who has decent social standing. Together, they become best friends who plan to open a horse riding school together in the future. That's really it. Kate's parents are c
Kyla Skinner
Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Def described the "angst" of growing up, and also captured the thought that friendships change over you will be totally connected to someone for a period of time, but then circumstances change and the connection is broken. And holy cow, talk about dysfunction! This book made me feel like a very good parent. ;)

Overall, this book was too traumatic for me (drugs, affairs, crazy abusive father)...but it did hold my attention and keep me awake while I read it. I liked it, but wouldn't nece
Dec 06, 2007 rated it liked it
It was ok. I wish we could do half stars, I'd have given it 2.5.

I picked this book up b/c the main character has scoliosis and wears a brace for part of the book - something I thought I could relate to since I have scoliosis and wore a brace in high school as well. And the story was interesting, well-written and I generally liked it, but I wasn't very enthralled. It was one of those books where after I read it, I just wondered where the author came up with the idea? There are some crazy charact
Annemarie Donahue
Excellent book which I think I'm correctly placing in Young Adult but a brilliant book for young girls nonetheless. I picked it up in a used book store in Burlington VT and figured the title is History Lessons for Girls...hey, that must be a young adult title. Not necessarily but I would easily give this book to a student for an independent read. The characters communicate through the experiences of youth and not the mediums of youth so it's much more genuine and I believe the any one could pick ...more
Jul 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
Bleh! Was this really the 70's? I don't remember it this way and am starting to think that I lived in this safe, sane bubble when I read stories like this or see promo's on TV for shows about "swingers" in the 70's. Sorry folk, I find it very hard to picture this as the true 70's except for a small (and I mean really small) group of folks in the US.

The writing was good technically but the story didn't have a plot to bring me in, quite predictable actually, and left me feeling depleted at the en
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
I connected on some level with this book. It was easy and quick to read, it's simplicity captured me. I felt the friendship was portrayed honestly, the era and all it's strange conflicts, how parents ultimately play their adult games at the expense of their children, and how moments in are lives are there forever, sometimes revisited tenderly, sometimes as in a nightmare. It was worth the time spent reading.
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it
I read History Lesson For Girls this summer. I remember being interested about the book as I read it, but now that some time has passed I can't remember a great deal about it. That tells me that it was a good book, but not particularly memorable. As I recall the characters where interesting, and the plot kept me reading. The parallel plot was a little confusing at first, but then you understood what it was. What I don't understand is the pupose of the parallel story.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, maybe because I use to ride horses as a child and I can appreciate the pecularity and the undesribable power a horse has. I understand the fear or the excitment teenage girls have that seems to be perminently painted on their faces. The tradegy of a divorce is an aspect of the American Family that more than half of my genration, myself included can relate to.We all have our heroine!!!
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was about 2 girls in CT during the humorous and tragic 70s. They are writing a fictional history of a girl in 1776 in preparation for their town Jubilee to celebrate the bicentennial. It was an interesting book written by one of the girls as an adult looking back. I don't know if I loved the story so much as I loved the writing style. Lots of cussing and drug use. This is a great author, though.
Nov 19, 2009 rated it liked it
I bought this book thinking it might be a non-fiction book that I could give my 13-year-old granddaughter, who reads everything. I decided to read a few chapters before giving it to her. It is actually and coming-of-age novel. I ended up reading it myself and decided that it was not appropriate for my granddaughte. I was an average read for this type of novel. Nothing special.
Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Not the best book I have ever read but the character Kate really captured my attention. I felt as if a small of piece of me was her although I was more like her when I was 21 years old, not 13 years old. A sad story about friends and the tradgey of growing up.
It made me grateful that I am 50 years old.
Barbara Myers
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
I don't think I appreciated how beautifully this was written until I'd reached the end. I'm sure readers who came of age in the era of the book (mid-seventies) will find the details even more telling and funny, but I was still able to be drawn in by Sheehan's characters. Gave a three, rather than four stars, because I wished I'd been hooked earlier in the story.
Melissa Cavanaugh
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
As the review says, we all remember what it was like to be 13, but I don't think we all need to recall it at such passionate and self-indulgent length. The story of two girls in 1970s suburban Connecticut moves along briskly enough that it kept me reading, but I never felt really engaged. I did, however, feel like I'd like to go to yoga, throw some pottery, and maybe smoke a little weed.
Feb 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
I like how these two friends escape from their world by writing a "history" story where everything is of their own invention and works out in the end. Unfortunately the real ended isn't as imagined. This was a very sad story - reading about how the parents treated their children (shooting their horses in front of them at point blank range, doing drugs around them, etc).
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