Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr is one of those books that makes me remember why I love Contemporary fiction so much. (as if I'd ever really forget: P) I write myself notes when I read books, especially if I think I'm going to review them at some point, and the first thought I recorded after finishing this one was — THIS is what Contemp fiction is all about!!
The 'girl' is Deanna. Lured into a sexual 'relationship' at 13 by a 17 year old boy, and caught in the backseat of his car by her father, Deanna has been branded. 3 years later and her father still cannot look her in the eye, everyone in town knows her story and everyone assumes that she's just some trashy slut. How is it, that no one examined that situation a little closer. Obviously she made a poor choice, but how is it that the 13 year old girl faces all of the fall out when the 17 year old boy who took advantage of her naivete deals with nothing. It made me sick to my stomach.
My heart ached for Deanna too. She knows she isn't what the people say about her, that there is more to her than just the gossip. But sometimes, when you hear the same thing over and over and over again, when no one seems willing to believe anything differently about you, you start to believe it too. And that's what Deanna is facing right now. She struggles, every single day. She has this tenuous grasp on life right now, struggling to find her place, to be happy and supportive of her friends while also wondering why she has to pretend to be happy when there is really no one (and nothing) to pretend for her. She is always miserable, and it's not like the dysfunction in her family makes it any better.
You guys. Seriously. The emotion in this book, the strength of the characters, the reality of these characters made my heart ache and my eyes smart. I reread a few sections while writing this review and even out of context, on their own, months after I actually read the book, they still had a strong impact on me, making me ache for Deanna and all the pain she's going through. The mark of a truly great book is that it never really leaves you. Even after time passes, the story and the characters stay fresh and important and real. And I certainly feel that with this book. Zarr has created the kind of brilliant writing that makes me remember why reading is so important, that reminds me how good it feels to be a reader.
The writing in this book was phenomenal. Each of these characters are most certainly flawed. They all make their own mistakes, and they all have something they need to learn to grow as a person. And we get to see a lot of that. We get to see the beginnings of growth, the increase in knowledge and understanding and the forgiveness of self and others that comes from this. Not everything is perfectly resolved and while we get to see the beginnings, a lot of the future is left untold. It leaves room for us to question and consider where their lives went and it also lets us know that, in some small way, these characters continue on, learning more and continuing to grow as people both as individuals and as part of larger relationships. (unless I'm the only one that likes to imagine the 'people' I meet in stories like this continuing to live after I've closed the book).
There is much that can be said about this book and the things it brings to question. There is much in this novel that makes you think and question how you view the people you interact with, how quick we are to judge. And it's done so smoothly, so beautifully and the story just breathes.