Eliza's Reviews > Blueprints for Building Better Girls

Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
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's review
Feb 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories

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 excited about cooking for her first boyfriend. Her mother walks her through it over the phone, thinking back all the while over her daughter's history, wondering how she became the person she is. Meanwhile the daughter is gagging over the chicken, almost unable to touch it, let alone enjoy preparing it. The most poignant story I've read in a while: Schappell is able to show the love between these damaged women, the hope, the fear, the despair on each side of the conversation. Oh dear.

The stories are connected in that the same characters reappear, sometimes at different points in their lives, sometimes as side characters in other women's stories. (Emily's sister Paige has her own story; Paige's story is also about Charlotte, who also appears in two other stories.) We also see characters develop over time; for example, Heather is a teenager in one story, then the mother of a teenaged son in a later one. This works well in that I get to see how the girls' insecurities play out over their lives. Unfortunately, it's not pretty--they haven't worked out their insecurities, only translated them from one canvas to another. (If only they'd had some therapy!) And Schappell does all of this well; their behavior, their responses to situations, are practically foreordained. Even as I want to scream at them No! Bad choice! they keep making the same mistakes again and again.

All that said, Schappell writes well, and the collection is pretty amazing…though I'm not sure to whom I would recommend it!
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