Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Deanna Lambert is not a country music star although her name is remarkably similar to one Miranda Lambert.  She is, however, a 16 year old girl trying to escape the reputation attached to her name forged when she was just 13 years old.  At 13, Deanna was caught in the backseat of Tommy Webber's Buick by her dad, and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the stigma of that night in the eyes of her dad, her classmates, or herself.  In a last ditch effort to save herself, Deanna takes a summer job at Picasso's, a crappy pizza joint on the half-dead strip.  While Deanna doesn't emerge from the summer as exactly the person she dreams of becoming, she does come to realize her role in the lives of those closest to her.

What Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl has going for it is it is realistic.  The plot and prose are simplistic but believable.  Deanna struggles with family and friends and crushes and the ramifications of poor choices.  All teenagers can relate to Deanna, and her agony over her 13 year old decisions may act as a cautionary tale for kids trying to grow up too fast.  However, when Tommy reappears in Deanna's life, her conflicting feelings for him resurface, and the reader begins to understand the deeper intricacies of a teenager's first relationship.  These complications are reflected in the supporting characters in the various stages of their relationships.  Deanna's best friends Lee and Jason represent the beginning stages of a relationship when everything is new and exciting.  Her older brother Darren and his girlfriend Stacy along with their baby April represent the challenge of a new family, and her mother and father represent a relationship gone sour under the strain of everyday living.  Deanna knows what she doesn't want - her mother and father's life - what she does want - a relationship like Lee and Jason's (if not Jason himself) and what she wants to improve on - Darren and Stacy's tenuous existence, yet she lacks the right partner and more importantly, she lacks confidence in herself.  Through interactions with all of these characters and her new boss Michael, Deanna embarks on a summer of self-discovery, and although what she discovers is not the fairy-tale formula for family she hoped for, she knows she's going to be alright.   

Although I think Zarr didn't fully flesh out the Jason/Lee/Deanna triangle, Story of a Girl is a relateable, enjoyable read that encourages readers to explore the consequences of their actions without being preachy.

Best matched with teens knee deep in the pressures of junior high and high school.

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