Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 9, 2008

Story of a Girl

Filed under: STORY OF A GIRL — jwill7 @ 3:16 pm

Reading Story of a Girl, I like the way Zarr faces this HUGE issue of rumors and reputations.  How real is that for teens?  As much as teens want to present themselves as aloof, we all care what other people think of us to lesser or greater extents.  So is Deanna a victim of circumstance?  I thought Zarr started off with a clever multiple perspectives technique, but that quickly went away.  I’ve seen this in other YA books and I like it.  What do any of you think?  Do you think it is used here as a hook?  And what of the story about the girl swimming?  Does that symbolism work for you guys?  I don’t mind it.  I think YA authors have to work harder than ever to sustain readers and a variety of narrative techniques is a way of doing that.  The Book Thief, True Diary, and other offer different modes of reading within a single novel.  More interesting this way, or a gimmick? –Josh



April 7, 2008

Cry a River and Drown the Whole World

Filed under: STORY OF A GIRL — traverse02 @ 11:10 am

I have to be honest, I really didn’t like Story of a Girl. It started off well, with the integration of the story Deanna was writing about the girl drifting out in the sea and the variations of the rumors floating around the school, but none of the characters were strong or developed enough for me to be interested in what was going on, which really wasn’t much to begin with. Basically, Deanna dwells on all of her problems (for much too long I might add) and is a very depressing and inactive protagonist. She has no interests and does nothing but work all summer. She frequently writes about paddling out to sea, but we never see why she feels this connection to the ocean. Is she a surfer or something? I felt that adding something like that, where she could break free from her hard-knock life, would have brought much more to the story and the character. Otherwise she just comes across as completely worthless, mulling about the house or work, worried about what everyone is thinking, attempting to get with Jason despite the fact that her friend Lee is going out with him (I thought that was a particularly rotten scene when she forced herself on him… I mean, come on… “It’s cold, can I borrow a shirt?” How desperate are you?). I can understand how the sexual encounter would have been a major issue in her life, with people still teasing her and what not, but that’s all it is, people teasing her. Life goes on. Grow up. She even admits towards the end that other girls were having sex back when her fling with Tommy occurred. Besides, she made the decision to go with him. I know, I know, he was much older and he was very forceful, but their fling happened over time and she went along each time knowing full well what was going to happen. For me it’s hard to side with the victim when the victim perpetuates the situation of being the victim. I guess I’m just a jerk and have no sympathy for people who dig their own graves.  She could have talked to Darren (who, by the way, seemed to me to be the most realistic character in the whole story, especially at the point when Deanna tries to go with him to find Stacey, another pathetic instance for Deanna). Maybe her dwelling on the problem was a result of her home life and her dad’s behavior? Actually, that probably is the answer, because everything turns around once she stands up to her dad. But her dad’s complete ignorance of what happened seemed unrealistic. 3 years? And you can’t even say one word?

Ah, well I guess this has turned more into a rant than a facilitation. I’m sure I will hear plenty about how I don’t fully grasp the gravity of the whole story, but it’s hard to with such an unlikeable, clingy, inactive and ultimately vapid main character. (I won’t even mention the sad attempts at comic relief). Even clever devices like incorporating her journal entries become grating as the novel goes on. Drifting at sea. Such a powerful metaphor. Never heard that one before. Maybe if it had some context. She mentions early on that this journal nonsense is the result of her English class with Mr. Whoever (he has a name, but he is never mentioned again, even though what he introduces to her has significant influence on her and the novel itself), but that is never developed. There are loose ends like this all over which could have been tied up to make a much tighter and enthralling story. I guess I should keep in mind that this is Sara Zarr’s first novel, but hopefully she won’t take the National Book Award nomination as a sign that she did everything right. The novel has its moments, especially towards the end with the realistic way things are handled with her family and Lee and Jason, but it feels to me like a work in progress. I won’t condemn her. I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t think many boys could, either.

I could go on forever about this, but I just want to know if anyone else had any problems enjoying this book? Judging from Kate’s post, I’m not totally alone. But I think my reaction might be a little more vehement, so I apologize if I went too far off the deep end. Just didn’t dig it.


April 6, 2008

Story of a Girl

Filed under: STORY OF A GIRL — katefrazer @ 9:54 am

There were some things I liked about Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, but overall, the book didn’t really grab my attention.  I’m very interested to hear what others have to say.  I did like Deanna as a main character and I feel bad for her, mostly because of parents.   However, the story itself is where I want to bring up some thoughts.  As was said in class, this book has a very generic title because this is something that has been happening for years and will continue.  Girls get caught with boys and then the story gets around-it’s nothing new.  I had a hard time setting Story of a Girl apart from other stories of this nature.  Did other people feel this way, or did you see something that made it original and more meaningful to you? 

Michael, Deanna’s boss, stood out to me.  We have talked about the positive adults we kept seeing in Chris Crutcher’s novels, and in some ways I think Michael is filling this role for Deanna.  He does nothing to the extent of the teachers, librarians, etc, in Crutcher’s novels, but he does seem to care about Deanna and is supportive and willing to listen to her.  Do you see Michael as a postive adult force in her life, or just another boss? 

I was pleased with the hopeful note the book left on, specifically with Lee’s ability to forgive Deanna.  That seemed pretty realistic and really showed that she does have people that care about her and not about her past. 

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