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The Geography of Girlhood Paperback – February 7, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up This novel in verse follows Penny as she navigates the unpredictable and often harrowing waters of young adulthood, and her episodic narration reverberates with authenticity. She is a sensitive girl deeply affected by her mother's abandonment when she was six. Though many of the hurdles that Penny encounters are representative of typical small-town teens, she has an insight into other people and even into her own feelings that make this a penetrating portrait of growing up female. The selections touch on the mercurial nature of friendships, envy of an attractive older sister with a boyfriend, self-consciousness about her own body and beauty, longing to be in the in crowd while at the same time deriding the superficial behavior of its members, and adjusting to a stepmother and younger stepbrother. The everyday pain of adolescence rings true throughout this readable and honest story. There is some matter-of-fact mention of sexual situations and underage drinking. However, it is the clarity, the keen understanding, and the apt metaphors that make Penny's voice so memorable. Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
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

Gr. 8-11. On her fourth birthday Penny received a globe from her mother: "If you ever need me . . . just remember I'll always be somewhere on here." Two weeks later her mother left, never to return. In a powerful verse novel, Penny charts the landscape of her high-school years--her older sister's wild ways, her best friend's descent into depression, her first boyfriend's accidental death, her crush on a teacher, her father's new marriage, her protective relationship of her younger stepbrother, and, always, her longing for her missing mother. Overcome by the pain in her life, Penny runs away with her sister's ex-boyfriend, but realizes it's a mistake and returns home to heal. The geography metaphor and wanderlust theme successfully connect the poems, some of which were published previously in literary journals, and the emotions of high-school and small-town life are beautifully expressed: "nothing ever happens / and if it does / all the things with wings / fly away." Give this to Sonya Sones' fans or teens who have read Stephanie Hemphill's Things Left Unsaid (2005). Cindy Dobrez
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: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316017353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316017350
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,197,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kirsten Smith is a screenwriter of girl power movies and an author of YA novels.

She co-wrote LEGALLY BLONDE, 10THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, THE HOUSE BUNNY, SHE'S THE MAN and THE UGLY TRUTH.

The YA novels she's written are THE GEOGRAPHY OF GIRLHOOD, a novel-in-verse, and TRINKETS, a tale about girl shoplifters.

Her favorite comedy words are "cheese" and "nipples."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By FictionAddiction.NET on May 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Penny was abandoned by her mother at a young age. She is dealing with a complicated family life, relationships, friendships and all the rest of those awkward situations that teenagers have to endure.

With each turn of the page is a new poem to let the reader in on the trials and tribulations of Penny. Her words flow and sing the highs and lows of young womanhood.

Kirsten Smith will have readers laughing and crying within a few pages with her very raw and real character. This is a must read for anyone who has ever been young, confused or in need of a wonderfully fresh read.

Young girls will relate to the emotional overload that Penny goes through. Boys, love, life and friends are only a small part of this fresh and beautiful story.

The Geography of Girlhood is a powerful novel completely written in poetic verse. Smith takes it straight on and writes in a no-holds-barred style that readers will appreciate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is the story of Penny Morrow, who, like so many others at any given time, is in the process of growing up and leaving childhood behind.

Penny is ready for this. There have been things in her life, in the past, that Penny has not been ready for--like losing her mother. She wants to grow up and live outside of her home and family now. Outside of the house, she goes to parties and meets a boy. Inside it, she gets a new stepmother and stepbrother. Penny is growing up and her life is changing, and there's no turning back the clock.

The Geography of Girlhood is a great story told in wonderful free-verse poetry that flows nicely and is easily understood. It's easy to follow the story and appreciate the poetry at the same time.

Kristen Smith has written various popular movies and her poetry has appeared many places, so it is not surprising that she has chosen a verse novel to write; combining two things she knows best, good stories and great poetry.

Kirsten Smith has told a brilliant story that is even more brilliant because of the form in which it is told, in verse. Even people who do not believe that they like poetry will be pulled into this story, with its lifelike characters and a plot that can be understood by anyone who has been through or is going through the often painful process of growing up--that is to say, all of us.

Armchair Interviews says: Nice, nice read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra M. on March 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
WOW!!!! This novel-in-poems rendered me speechless; it is so poignant and moving and the author's poetry is breathtakingly beautiful. The story is so compelling, and the character of Penny is so vivid and real, she just jumps right off the page! It's unlike anything I have ever read before, and it is incredibly beautiful and gripping. I could not put it down, I read it all in one sitting. The author, Kirsten Smith, has created the most REAL teenager ever. Penny is so much like me and my friends. This is a teenager that girls can relate to now and forever. Throughout the book, I was constantly blown away by Smith's gorgeous writing, and relating so well to Penny's feelings and experiences. This book made me cry and laugh countless times. Smith is brilliant and the book is brilliant. This is a must-read for ALL girls out there!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Miller VINE VOICE on March 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
My thoughts:
Positive:

* This went with my my theme of reading novels written in poetry.
* It reminded me of how I was in high school. I was kinda lost and floating through friends. Although, I never ran away.
* It's much like a movie.

Negative:

* It's extremely sad with no real ending.
* I think that she doesn't ever realize how much she was taken advantage of and that would have been a strong lesson to learn.
* It can be a little bit too like a movie and not completely believable.
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Format: Paperback
The Geography of Girlhood is simply about a girl growing up, becoming a young adult, without certain "guides". At a young age, Penny's mother left her and her family, leaving her, her sister and her father behind. Just like most sister relationships, Penny secretly looks up to her older sister while the two bicker and fight all the time. Penny struggles with all the little and large aspects in growing up as she starts high school.

Kirsten Smith's use of Free-Verse offers a new point of view and way of relating to a teenage girl coming of age. Her clever use of geography images and symbolizes defines the truth that most girls (and women) are not as clearly defined as one may think. Just like Geography and Nature, a girl's emotions, thoughts, and adventures are anything but simple and normal.

While there were a few times when it was unclear what Kirsten Smith was trying to say, through her use of over done symbols and imagery, one message beyond "geography" rang true in this Verse Novel: Mother. As Penny maps out her life without the guide (a key so to speak) of a mother she learns that does not need to be reliant on such a key and finds her own way to create her own individualistic "map".

Overall, The Geography of Girlhood was a nice quick read that the entire female gender can relate to in one way or another - whether that be the many "loves" we go through, the "it's the end of the world" attitude about things, and even the realizations that come with growing up. For me the use of symbolisms was a bit overdone. It did get confusing at times - for example, how exactly did Penny's best friend become crazy and why? Certain aspects such as this would have contributed to making the novel better if more detail was given. But again, poetry and verse are not always apparent and push us to read between the lines. In the end, Smith's novel was a very nice read and recommended for everyone.
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