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Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Fiction Paperback – July 10, 2012
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"A hilarious, poignant achievement. . . . Schappell has an exceptional gift for bringing a vibrant, irresistible group of characters to life, making "Blueprints" a positively addictive read." --Meredith Maran, "People" (4 stars)
"Darkly funny. . . As distinctive and tart as the cherry on its cover, the stories have a comedic touch and ironic edge, softened by moments of memorable tenderness." --Elizabeth Taylor, "Editor's Choice," "Chicago Tribune"
"Electrifyingly alive, funny, and thrillingly honest. You know these women, right down to the way they like their coffee. Schappell is an effortless stylist." --Caroline Leavitt, "The Boston Globe"
"Memorable . . . seductive . . . Schappell's commanding, honest prose taps into a deeper sense of story that promises to resonate with many readers." --S. Kirk Walsh, "San Francisco Chronicle"
"Despite the talent for arch comedy that Schappell and her characters share, the tragic dimension of each story sears the heart." --"Kirkus Reviews" (starred)
"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"
"Like many American women, Elissa Schappell's characters live in that zone where toughness and vulnerability overlap. In this remarkable, deeply engaging collection of stories, Schappell introduces us to a wide variety of female characters, from reckless teenagers to rueful middle-aged moms, and asks us to ponder the mystery of how those girls became these women." --Tom Perrotta, author of "Little Children"
"This is brave stuff. I learned things reading this book. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the very same time, these mothers, daughters, wives are all struggling to be honest with themselves--and we get the gift of Schappell being honest with us. These characters are poignant, searing, memorable." --Elizabeth Strout, author of "Olive Kitteridge"
"Schappell...creates wise, sexy, funny, and fathoms-deep tales of dire miscommunication." --"Booklist"
"Schappell has the ability--and the guts--to cut straight through the 'girls gone wild' images that inevitably throb to mind (ouch) and show us the tender and often hopeful human beings that live inside these women-to-be."
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
While I was there, I read one of the best books I've read in a long time, Elissa Schappell's Blueprints for Building Better Girls. This is a collection of short stories, peopled by characters who get older and jump around the country. Many of them know each other. The stories revolve around the demands of female friendship, getting a bad reputation in high school, eating disorders (in girls and boys), rape, female promiscuity, the fraught relationship between mothers and daughters and mothers and teenage sons, infertility, infidelity, rescue dogs, and the bliss (or lack thereof) of marriage and child-rearing. This book was fantastic. It was brilliant, brave, and energizing, Some of it was gut-wrenching. In the middle of the story "Aren't You Dead Yet?," the narrator, a playwright, writes about an aspiring artist she's involved with and a play she'd written that he wanted to read. "I'd never written anything like that, nothing expressly female. Nothing that felt true like that. I mean, nobody cared about that stuff.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So, so, SO very good. Clean and crisp writing with a clear voice throughout each story. Cannot recommend any more vehemently.Published 10 months ago by Dorian Jacobs
The only things I liked about this collection were the title and the cover. So sadly, I didn't enjoy it, as much as I looked forward to reading it. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Fountainheart
"In these trying times, it is more important than ever that we take a firm hand in shaping the lives and characters of our young women, not only through instruction but by... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Brittany
No, I didn't read it. I tried and found it to be trite and poorly written. Hopefully, someone at Friends of the Library sales will love it.Published on May 17, 2014 by Jane D. Anderson
Loved the book. The writing and stories were wonderful. Most entertaining. Would highly recommend this book. Interesting and insightful.
Meh. Another piece of trendy Manhattan literary feminist stuff. Some will like it. I couldn't be bothered after a chapter or so.Published on November 30, 2013 by dragonlady
I was really excited about this book because I've read Schappell before and liked her, but I wasn't able to get into this book at all and put it down about a quarter of the way in.Published on August 11, 2013 by The Book Wheel
HAD ORDERED AS A GIFT THAT SOMEONE HAD LISTED ON THEIR CHRISTMAS LIST, SO I ASSUME IT IS A GOOD BOOK.Published on February 7, 2013 by Lady Sadie