Customer Reviews: Big Girl Small: A Novel
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on May 10, 2011
My biggest problem in writing this review is I want to give Big Girl Small 6 stars. That is how compelling this new novel is. It is a brilliant novel, completely innovative, enchanting, and beautifully crafted. I was already a fan of Rachel DeWoskin after reading Repeat After Me, and I was eager to get my copy of Big Girl Small, so I came to it with big expectations.

The protagonist, Judy Lohden, is small in height, less than four feet tall, but big in talent, ambition, smarts, and wit. The narrative is her autobiography, and it displays all that is big about her. She recounts her journey, her first year at Darcy High, a performing arts high school in Ann Arbor Michigan. Born into a family of average height, we learn of the pride and courage with which she had faced life and led her to apply to Darcy High. That is her big gamble at being mainstream. She takes the stage and performs before an audience, not as a Wizard of Oz munchkin, but as a regular, talented high school girl. Her stage performance is a smash hit.

Judy triumphs over the challenges she expected at Darcy. But there are challenges she does not expect, a performance she does not intend, and Judy descends into a dark night she could never have imagined. Without a touch of mawkish sentimentality, but with the same encompassing tolerance and the same powerful storyteller's touch displayed in Repeat after Me, DeWoskin takes us along on that journey, through Judy's eye's, Judy's wit, Judy's insight, and Judy's 3'9" perspective.

It goes without saying I could not put the book down, and I will read it again. There is a clarity, humanity, and depth in this story that makes it not just about a little person, but about every adolescent and every person who has dealt with some personal "insufficiency," real or imagined. The book is rich in texture and authentic detail about the school and the city of Ann Arbor, where I believe DeWoskin herself went to high school.

This book could be a young person's read. It is certainly an adult read. And I believe it is likely to be a very big popular read.
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on May 27, 2011
We all remember high school days, and the simultaneously exhilarating and excruciating roller coaster of emotions in those years. Looking back, the feelings of those days remain at least as vivid as any in our later years: the love, the fear, the self-doubt, the hope. Those early years shape our lives, yet so much of that time is buried and forgotten in our experiences as fully grown adults. Our senses are dulled with everyday cares, partners, realism and all the yucky perspectives that make up adulthood.
And it is very seldom that a work of fiction can so fully awaken adolescence as does Big Girl Small. Judy Lohden is an everywoman/everygirl teenager, but with fears of loneliness, unreturned love, self-doubt, self-consciousness raised to an art form by DeWoskin's central conceit: Lohden is a dwarf, a girl small in stature but big in every other way that counts.
Big Girl Small is a first-person narrative throughout, the voice of Judy Lohden. This is an extraordinary accomplishment by the writer - the voice rings true, is unique, is vivid and alive. Yet it comes from a person with a context and set of experiences few of us share. What we do share are the emotions. good and bad decisions, ambition and diffidence of Lohden. It is a voice both mature and distant, with a wry and ironic humor and self-mockery throughout, that place the central character's hopes and disastrous choices in context. Yet also a voice with the naivete and hope of youth. Lohden is a great character, a small, female Caulfield at play in a Midwest high school. You will be very glad to have met her.
deWoskin's two earlier books also make great summer reads: Foreign Babes in Beijing is a story of a young American woman living in China before the expatriate and investment invasions. And Repeat After Me is a moving tale of a young woman, living in New York, whose obsessions and loves and hopes will stay with you long after you close the covers. All of her books show a rare genius for narrative, a characteristic and literate wit, and a craftswoman's way with language, that will both delight and challenge you.
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on May 24, 2011
Judy Lohden, our narrator, is a sixteen-year-old dwarf who has the most wonderful parents, owners of a down-home-type restaurant in Ann Arbor, a restaurant they had named after their daughter. Judy has two brothers, one older, Chad, and one younger, Sam. She is the only dwarf in the family. And she is highly talented, both as a writer--she establishes herself well as a believable narrator--and a performer in an all-arts high school.
For a while, but not for long, I thought I was going to be entering the life of a "Glee"-type school, that Judy Lohden would be like one of those cast members on the popular sitcom.
Judy has a couple of girl friends--as opposed to girlfriends (she's straight) who play an important role in this novel. One is Goth Sarah. The other Molly.
And then there is drop-dead handsome Kyle, fairly new at the school as is Judy. And for a while we are led to believe that her infatuation with Kyle will lead to nothing.
But then...
Oh my...
I just want to tell all.
But I won't.
Except to say this: if you are like me you will not be able to put this novel down once you get halfway through. But I will bite my tongue. say this: we live in the age of YouTube! And this novel will make us only too aware of the downside of an era in which...
Nope. I'm biting it!
This is one of the most believable books I have read from the point of view of a teenager although I suspect many parents would not want their sixteen-year-olds reading it.
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VINE VOICEon March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Judy Lohden is your average teenager in so many ways: insecure, wishes she could be more popular, embarrassed by her parents, etc. But, she is only three feet tall and has a singing voice that astounds everyone. The story takes place in Judy's junior year of high school; her first year at D'Arcy High, a high caliber performing arts school. The author weaves between past and present effortlessly. All of the characters in the story have depth and their own stories. We follow Judy's arrival at D'Arcy and the subsequent event that may alter her life forever. At times, I wanted the author to reveal the cause of Judy's pain much earlier in the book. However, upon completion of the novel -- it all made perfect sense. I thought the author pegged the teenage angst perfectly. This is one of those stories where I have been thinking of the characters long after I put the book down. Interestingly, the parents are not protrayed as enemies and most of the teens also reveal themselves as complex, multidimensional characters. I don't want to give away the "event" that changes Judy's life, but I can say that this book would give book clubs much to talk about. Not only in discussing the characters, their motivation, and their actions/reactions, but in relation to current events and today's family values. Great writing, great editing, and a story that will haunt you afterward!
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on May 11, 2011
Judy Lohden, the 16 year-old, 3-foot-9-inch heroine of Rachel DeWoskin's second novel, Big Girl Small, narrates her own rise-and-fall story in a literary voice as powerful as the singing voice that lands her a spot at the exclusive performing arts high school where her story unspools. If everything about Darcy Arts Academy seems too good be true, we soon find out why, as Judy tells her tale from a motel room where she has fled to escape the scandal brought upon her by "D'Arts" golden boy Kyle Malanack.

Though the particulars of Judy's humiliation are revealed slowly, the punch of the story lies not so much in any plot device as in the engrossing narrative voice that reveals it all. DeWoskin fully inhabits Judy's overactive, hyper-self-aware mind. Her way of looking at and describing the privileged high school world and its inhabitants is sharp, funny, and unique. Not only does DeWoskin convincingly convey Judy's physical perspective--that of a little person in a world of things often just out of reach--she endows Judy with crushing emotional perspective and the observant nature of a born outsider.

Read this book for its ruthless dissection of the way teenagers talk to each other, about each other, and to themselves. Read it for its surprising wit and emotional wallop. Most of all, read it for its engaging central character whose voice will stay with you long after the book is finished.
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on May 26, 2011
What a wonderful book with a unique protagonist. I will definitely check out Ms. DeWoskin's other books. I found the acknowledgments at the back of the book to be quite.....surreal. Ms. DeWoskin has quite interesting in-laws (or some might say outlaws). I wonder what it is like to be the daughter-in-law of infamous radicals, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
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on December 21, 2012
The book doesn't hold together because there is little character development. There are so many ways this book doesn't hold together but the parents' reaction to the "incident" is just bizarre!
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VINE VOICEon April 15, 2016
I have mixed feelings about this book that I picked up and raced through because of its easy to read writing style and the main character's feisty, in-your-face style of narrating. I loved the beginning especially, even the profanity (I've hung around high schoolers a little bit, all of the swearing rang true to me). And what's not to love about a little person with big dreams? I didn't so much like the typical look-how-smart and look-how-talented I am aspects. I think there is way too much of that these days and while I love a kid with confidence, I also believe that a little humility goes a long way. Judy is not just super talented (like all of the kids who are accepted into the fancy arts-centric high school), but the MOST talented (the only one who gets into senior voice who's not a senior) and so smart (AP/Honors, etc.). I did appreciate and understand her becoming infatuated with the most popular boy in school, though not so much his preoccupation with her. Another like: I think that the way the author handled Judy's interactions with her classmates was pretty good. I have a teenage daughter and it seems that it's difficult even for friendships to be the way a kid wants. It's often, you like this girl but she's friends with someone else and the girl you maybe least want as a friend is the one paying you all the attention, so good job to her on that. Lastly of the likes: really nice descriptions all around.

What I did not like were the following things (and just a reminder - I warned you - spoilers ahead - don't read on unless you've read the book):

Because Judy is a little person, "I'm sixteen years old and three feet nine inches tall," according to girl's growth charts, the average height of a six year old, I felt that Kyle was almost grooming her, as a pedophile does to a child, in hopes of future molesting. It gave me the creeps.

The average weight of a 6 year old of average height is about 50 pounds, with all of the drinking that Judy did, she likely would have died of alcohol poisoning. I don't see how she was functional enough to do the things she did.

The fact that her parents decided (without her input) not to press charges against persons who committed a gang rape against their daughter was troubling. What kind of message does this send to victims of sexual assault?

Lastly, the unresolved reason behind the making of the video bothered me too. Who edited the video? And why would teenage boys (even stupid ones with zero common sense) choose to film themselves engaging in illegal acts that could send them to jail?

That is to stay, several parts of the plot were unbelievable. In summary, great writing, great character, great voice, but plot problems led to too many instances of disbelief. Better: Missoula by Jon Krakauer, I Am the Central Park Jogger by Trisha Meilli and Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt.
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on August 2, 2013
As a mom to a son with special needs and a typically developing' daughter who is nonetheless anxious about starting middle school, this story about a girl whose vulnerabilities are exploited and publicized on the internet tapped into my own worries and kept me up at night, reading and worrying--which is not to say it isn't good...just the opposite. The protagonist's witty observations about her own and others' failings and her ultimate resilience reminded me of the protagonist of Wally Lamb's *She's Come Undone* although the fact that De Woskin's heroine had decent parents made the story harder to read than Lamb's, since of course it's painful to be reminded that we can't protect our children from everything/everyone no matter how engaged or protective we are.
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on April 17, 2012
The opening line of this book had me intrigued so I gave it a chance and I'm glad I did. This story has really good characters worth knowing more about. The story line is well constructed, the writing is engaging (and extremely well edited). It's worth the time and money.
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