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Story of a Girl Paperback – February 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—When Deanna's father catches her having sex in a car when she is 13, her life is drastically changed. Two years later, he still can't look her in the eye, and though Tommy is the only boy she's been with, she is branded the school slut. Her entire family watches her as though she is likely to sleep with anyone she sees, and Tommy still smirks at and torments her when she sees him. Her two best friends have recently begun dating, and Deanna feels like an intruder. She tries to maintain a close relationship with her older brother, but Darren and his girlfriend are struggling as teenage parents. Deanna learns to protect herself by becoming outwardly tough, but feels her isolation acutely. Her only outlet is her journal in which she writes the story of an anonymous girl who has the same experiences and feelings that she does. Through this, readers see the potential that Deanna cannot identify in herself. This is a heartbreaking look at how a teenager can be defined by one mistake, and how it shapes her sense of self-worth. This is realistic fiction at its best. Zarr's storytelling is excellent; Deanna's reactions to the painful things said to her will resonate with any reader who has felt like an outsider. It is an emotionally charged story, with language appropriate to the intensity of the feelings. Story of a Girl is recommended for both teens and the adults who live and work with them.—Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Deanna was 13 when her father caught her and 17-year-old Tommy having sex. Three years later, she is still struggling with the repercussions: how Tommy jokingly made her into the school slut; how the story became legend in her small town; how her father looked at her then--and now doesn't look at her at all. Her brother, Darren, has mistakes to handle, too: he lives with his girlfriend and their baby in his parents' basement. And while Deanna's mother seems numb, her father is perpetually angry and depressed. Meanwhile, in a misguided search for love brought on by the confusion of seeing Tommy again, Deanna intentionally hurts her two closest friends. Although she's more aware than most how a single event can define a person, Deanna still struggles to gain insight into herself, her family, and her friends. When she finally does, she's able to create small but positive changes in her relationships with them all. Characters are well drawn, especially Deanna, whose complicated, deeply felt emotions turn the story. There are plenty of heartbreaking moments, too, including a poignant confrontation with Tommy. Though nothing is miraculously fixed by the close, everyone's perspective has changed for the better. This is a thoughtful, well-executed debut from an author who understands how to write for teens. Krista Hutley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316014540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316014540
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, which the New York Times called "an elegant novel." She's a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her books have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library, and have been translated into many languages. In 2010, she served as a judge for the National Book Award. She has written essays and creative nonfiction for Image, Hunger Mountain online, and Response as well as for several anthologies, and has been a regular contributor to Image's daily Good Letters blog on faith, life, and culture. As of summer 2013, she's a member of the faculty of Lesley University's Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Sara also hosts the This Creative Life podcast. Born in Cleveland and raised in San Francisco, she currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Herold on June 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Imagine you made a mistake as a teenager. A big mistake. Now imagine you made this mistake in a small town when you were thirteen years old.

Sara Zarr's moving "Story of a Girl" tells just this tale from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Deanna Lambert. At age 13, Deanna was caught "in the act" with her older brother's best friend. By her father. Oh, and Deanna and the boy were in a parked car.

Small towns being what they are, it takes only a day for Deanna's story to spread throughout Pacifica. From that moment on Deanna is the "school sl*t" (despite the fact she's avoided boys since the incident) and at home life isn't much better. Dad--nearly three years later--has yet to recover from finding his daughter in a car with a seventeen-year-old boy and he barely talks to Deanna.

"Story of a Girl" opens on the final day of Deanna's sophomore year. She's feeling stuck--in her small town, in her reputation, and in her family. Zarr does a great job in showing the depression--economic and emotional--of a place down on its luck. Deanna's only job option is a rundown pizza joint. Her parents professional lives have been downsized--Mom working in a Mervyns and Dad in an auto parts supply store. Deanna's much-loved older brother lives in the basement with his new wife and baby. Deanna's brother and his wife work in the grocery store. With everyone working retail hours, no one is home at the same time and the house is sliding into disrepair.

Deanna dreams of escape--of saving her money and moving out with her brother and his family. But escape is hard to come by when you are sixteen and live in a small town. Instead, Deanna must come to terms with what happened and forgive herself and others. Over the course of just this one summer, Deanna, with a few mistakes along the way, finds peace with herself, her reputation, her town, and her family. It's a beautiful gem of a book, one that will stay with me forever.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Debra Garfinkle on July 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This story grabbed me from page one. What drew me in were the interesting setting and true-to-life characters-- not just the teenage girl narrating the book, but her three-dimensional friends and coworkers and family, all with their own stories and heartaches and flaws. The story seems simple: A girl in a small working-class town near San Francisco cannot leave her bad reputation behind and cannot get her father's forgiveness. Or can she? But the story is not really simple, because the people in it are so complicated. By writing with honesty and truth and heart, Zarr made me feel deeply about all the characters and about how their stories would resolve.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on January 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
At the age of thirteen, Deanna's father found her in the backseat of a car with her older brother's friend, Tommy. The rumors which quickly spread around her small town and her school were horrible, but even worse was the look in her father's eyes. In the three years since the incident, Deanna's dad has given her the cold shoulder, constantly reminding her of the disappointment and embarrassment of that night.

Now sixteen, even though she has dated no one and done nothing, Deanna has been unable to shake her bad reputation. The only classmates she calls friends, Lee and Jason, are dating each other. She feels like a third wheel when they hang out - and a stab of jealousy when she sees Lee wearing Jason's shirt.

Deanna's new job at a pizza place almost offers her more than she can handle. She is surprised to find a new friend in Michael, the middle-aged manager, and even more surprised to find Tommy, her brother's old friend, as a co-worker. Deanna stays put, determined not to let Tommy's presence get the best of her.

At home, she finds reprieve from her brisk father and her nervous mother in her brother Darren, who lives in the basement with his girlfriend and their infant. Deanna secretly wants to move out with Darren, Stacy, and April, planning on contributing to their rent and bills with her modest paycheck.

During this impressionable summer, Deanna realizes that maybe, just maybe, she can stop worrying about who people think she is and become who she is meant to be. That instead of looking back, she can look forward.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. McMahan on April 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
The story line was good, I liked the characters, well, I hated the dad but that just means Zarr wrote a great character. I didn't feel connected to Deanna. What happened to her when she was 13 was heartbreaking, but I didn't feel her pain. When I read the novel I was never drown in, I had to push myself to finish because I wanted to see how she handled it but I "knew" I was reading a book, I didn't feel like I was "in" the story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By The Avid Reader on January 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had high hopes for this book, but nd I have to admit when I started reading it my first impression was that it was a bit slow. This took me longer to read than most books, because every so often I would get bored with it. I think for me, I like books that are plot-driven, and this really is not. It's very introspective, and it's nice to really get into Deanna's head, but in my opinion it makes for kind of a slow read.

Although I felt like a lot of the relationships depicted in the book were raw and really realistic, I kept feeling like the relationship between Deanna and her father was a little too over the top to be believable. I felt like they should have made more progress in their relationship in three years, especially since Deanna seems not to have put a foot wrong in those three years. Since they were so close before the incident when Deanna was thirteen, it felt a little off to me that their relationship would break down so completely and just stay broken for years.

In contrast, I thought Deanna's relationship with her brother was very authentic, and I loved the book's portrayals of her friendships with Lee and Jason. Zarr does a wonderful job in portraying the ups and downs of friendships - especially the difficulties of trios - and I liked the way the relationships between Deanna, Lee and Jason grow and change throughout the book. Zarr definitely has a great understanding of how teenage relationships work, and it was nice to see such a real depiction of that.

I did like the messages that Story of a Girl communicated, about how stifling life in a small town can be, and the injustice of how one poor choice in your past can completely change how you are perceived by your peers.
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