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Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Fiction Paperback – July 10, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074327671X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743276719
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

On the Best Fiction of 2011 list. - Oprah
One of the Best Books of 2011. "...women continue to live, resist and question the blueprints the world hands them, and Schappell's collection masterfully illustrates this timeless dance." - eMusic
Editor's Choice. "...darkly funny...distinctive and tart...the stories have a comedic touch and ironic edge, softened by moments of memorable tenderness." - Chicago Tribune
"Schappell's stories acutely evoke the disorientation induced in women by our culture’s barrage of mixed messages..." - The New York Times
"...raw and engaging...more textured and complicated world than is usually found in collections. This, combined with the energy of the writing and the dark wit of these characters, will endear the book to Schappell's audience and fans of Lorrie Moore and Maile Meloy." - Publishers Weekly
"...brisk and satisfying..." - The New Yorker
"Schappell's sardonic, not-afraid-to-show-ugly voice quietly carries us along, linking sex and dread - not in a Scary Movie way but rather in a mode of hard-lesson suburban nihilism." - Elle
"...sharp, meticulously etched and tenuously linked...deeply affecting..." - New York Press
"[a] knockout new collection...Disarming, wickedly funny, and moving, these stories reveal girls and women on their way to becoming other people...wise and entrancing..." - Boston Globe
"...accomplished... Taken altogether, an immediacy and intimacy are offered up in this generous collection. Schappell's commanding, honest prose taps into a deeper sense of story that promises to resonate with many readers." - San Francisco Chronicle
"...well-worn elements of women's fiction are revived by Schappell's dark, funny, biting prose, gift for metaphor, and incredibly believable characters...Her smart, flawed, strong, fascinating women are the stars of the show.' - Oregon Live
"...superior fiction, the work of a talented stylist with a cold eye." - Washington Times
"...wise and witty...Schappell writes with piercing insight and good humor, but one of her greatest gifts is her restraint...Schappell's stories read like snapshots - capturing precise moments from a woman's life from a distinct perspective. Considered together, Blueprints for Building Better Girls is a treasured photo album." - BookPage
"Don't be fooled by the playful title, there's a master architect at work here...sharp, smart collection...Honest, unflinching, and deeply affecting." - Barnes & Noble Review
"Schappell's writing is entertaining...funny and smart...[Narrator] Julia Whelan...brings a sly humor to the work, with a mock earnestness with occasional emotional truth erupting beneath the surface. She is a great choice as a reader for this book." - Metapsychology.com

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Elissa Schappell is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair where she writes the “Hot Type” book column, a former senior editor of The Paris Review, and co-founder and now editor-at-large of Tin House magazine. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

I tried and found it to be trite and poorly written.
Jane D. Anderson
This book is completely made for girls/women and all that they endure through life.
BookWorm
I pushed through to the end, but it never really got my attention.
Jo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What Elissa Schappell calls the blueprints of girls might also be called anatomies or inner workings. This collection of eight stories delves into teenhood, womanhood, wifehood and motherhood, from the late '70s into today, in order to understand the condition of being female and Gen X. Loosely linked through characters and circumstance, each story takes as its subject a woman in a different stage of life, whether it's college discoveries of self or a mother who still needs to coddle her grown daughter.

The strength in many of Schappell's stories is that her protagonists are never outwardly apologetic about who they are, even if they might have internal struggles with their identities. As a result, they feel real, not like they're trying too hard to be perfect young women. And yet they acknowledge their unconventionality. In "Monsters of the Deep," Heather is perfectly fine having sex with Ross if that's what he wishes; she would just like the television on in the background, please. Paige and Charlotte, in "Elephant," gravitate towards each other precisely because they know they're not as perfect as the other moms at the playground. And Kate of "A Dog Story" is less than certain about whether she's reacting to her miscarriage in the appropriate way.

Two of the strongest stories in BLUEPRINTS FOR BUILDING BETTER GIRLS are "The Joy of Cooking" and "Aren't You Dead Yet?" The former is first surprising in its protagonist --- the narrator, referred to only as Mommy, is at once sad, regretful and dismissive, and the story is a powerful representation of what happens to familial relationships as children grow older. Beth/Lizzie/B of "Aren't You Dead Yet?" is similarly self-reflective but callous. It's an excellent depiction of how a writer gets her ideas.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Zach Powers on October 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure that the girls in Building Blueprints for Better Girls are necessarily better for their experiences, but they are intensely familiar, as if I had studied their blueprints. As you read, it's hard not to think, Oh, I know her. It's not that a character reminds you of someone you already know, but that they are rendered with such consistent attention to personal identity that you feel you should know them. You expect to run into them on the sidewalk.

The book elevates self-examination to art form. The characters never dwell in melodrama, they never spout grand philosophies. The real revelations, the real tragedies, aren't in the big moments; they exist in the smallest actions, especially interactions, of the characters. The grand events are the kinds of things that carry their own weight with them. There's not much a writer can add, and Schappell wisely uses these life milestones as the framework for her stories, not as the driving force behind them. The result is often small, ordinary scenes that branch out into the larger world through memory, and with this device each scene moves beyond its apparent simplicity. It reminds us of the great complexity of mere existence.

To read this book is to enter the characters' heads, not just knowing their thoughts, but understanding, sometimes to an uncomfortable degree, their psychology. And, like most good books do, it makes you reevaluate your own.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Poor Holden Caulfield. In Catcher in the Rye, he muses, "Girls. You never know what they're going to think." How right he was! In Elissa Schappell's new short story collection, the old blueprints for Appropriate Female Behavior -- the name of a vintage etiquette manual, 1963 edition -- have all been tossed away. And now the girls and women are forced to muddle through with the new rules: Be yourself but also be what your boyfriend, parents, and girlfriends want you to be as well.

These women are survivors, some only barely, armed with caustic humor to withstand the toughest stuff that life can throw their way. In "A Dog Story," a couple that has long tried to have a baby discover, in a routine examination, that the technician cannot locate the heartbeat. "My husband asked her to keep looking," the wife says, "as if the baby were playing Marco Polo and had swum behind a kidney."

In another story called "Elephant," two women who mouth all the right clichés about how "motherhood matters," finally get real with each other. "She was crying the way mothers learn to do. Her body betrayed nothing. There was no wiping her eyes, or heaving shoulders, no sound at all."

And then there's "Joy of Cooking" - with all its anti-feminist connotations. An anorexic daughter, who believes she's in love for the first time, calls her mother in a panic, cajoling her to walk her through the steps to roasting a chicken for her boyfriend. The story veers from what, at first, seems like a traditional coming-of-age rite of passage - the passing down of menus from any mother to any daughter -- to a dark tale of manipulation, guilt, lack of gratitude, and hidden angers.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By AgnesMack on September 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I want to buy 1,000 copies of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and hand them out to random passersby on the streets. I want this book to be read, immediately, by everyone I've ever known or will ever know. This is incredible stuff. Easily the best book I've read this year. Possibly the best book I've ever read.

It is a series of short stories that center around women and the relationships we have with one another, with our lovers, with our spouses, our children, our parents. Most of the stories intersect with another story in some way. There was laughing, there was crying. There was one particular 8 page section that I had to read out of the corner of my eye because I just couldn't face it head on.

It is brave, and honest, and exceptional in every way. This book made me a wiser person.

Thank you, Goodreads First Reads program for sending me this book and thank you Elissa Schappell for writing it.
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