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The Only Girl in the Car: A Memoir Paperback – March 2, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance journalist Dobie grew up in a small Connecticut town in the 1960s, the oldest girl in a Catholic family of eight. Her memoir opens when she's 14, sitting on her front lawn, all dolled up in her "candy-striped halter top, bell-bottom jeans, and platform shoes," waiting to get picked up by some guy-any guy-and lose her virginity. She doesn't know much about boys or men, but she's drawn to the bad ones, those who leer, eyeing her sexual possibilities. Before long, she's had sex with a few and acquired a steady boyfriend. While the sex isn't exactly arousing, she gets something she needs more: a crowd, a scene. Kathy has her Jimmy and a backseat full of Jimmy-wannabes, and they're cruising the neighborhood, drinking and smoking dope. Being "the only girl in the car" is a kick, until the night it turns into a gang rape and Kathy's whole world turns on her. She's ostracized so badly, she can't confide in her closest girlfriends, much less her family. Slowly she recovers by "remaking" herself as a loner, as a writer. Like many coming-of-age stories, Dobie's is painful, in large part because of the cultural cusp her generation of women had to navigate. Sexual liberation was celebrated-even the youth center director talked with the teens while she dallied in bed with her boyfriend-but girls with reputations were doomed. Although Dobie doesn't expose a new world, her text is engaging.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The memoir of a good girl gone naughty who encounters real trouble in the backseat of a car, this work was bought by Dial editorial director Susan Kamil because of its "brilliant writing and emotional power."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385318839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385318839
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,158,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a sexual assault therapist, one of my teen clients once told me: "What gets you a slutty reputation is not what you do or how many times you do it," she replied, "but who you do it *with.*"
This, it seems to me, is a central message of Dobie's insightful memoir: When it comes to girls and sexuality, image is everything. What Dobie-a naïve 14-year-old from a "good" Catholic family-does not understand is that reputation is all-important and there are different rules for boys and girls. She thinks that she can be one of the boys, that she can be accepted into their wild and unruly democracy. She wants to live the life her father lives, "a large life filled with drama." She wants to act, while simultaneously being acted upon-both the subject and object of desire. Even though she recognizes that women's sexuality is viewed with equal parts attraction and revulsion, she holds to the belief that she can "reap the desire and dodge the loathing."
Dobie's book is about *a* sexual assault, yes, but it is about so much more than that. It is about being both insider and outsider; about the kindness and cruelty of peers; about the uniqueness of a young girl's desire; about being white and non-working-class; about "bad" boys and the contradictory expectations for men in American culture. It is about two years of one girl's life in a large family in a small town in the 1960's.
If the goal of good writing is, as Anne Lamott says, "to turn the unspeakable into words-not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues," then Dobie has done just that. Her language is lyrical and specific, laced with details that capture the mood and setting of each freshly-exposed experience.
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Format: Hardcover
I was deeply moved by this book. I found the language poetic; the prose stunning. And, most importantly, I think, the author made me *feel* in a visceral way, what the protagonist was feeling. I was touched by the friendships - true friendships, that came from places that would (in the eyes of a society that sees things in black and white) seem implausable - yet there they were - glorious, for all of us to see. And I felt hurt for the utter betrayal suffered by a 15 year old girl. Naivete should never (but often does) lead to harm...and I felt for the "scrappy" 15 year old protagonist as she tried to find some kind of way to masculine affection. I think that Ms. Dobie has written an important book; I know many 15 year old girls who will feel empowered by her words; and I know many 51 year old women who will read her words and have them resonate inside them. But this isn't a woman's book; boys and men and intricately intertwined, and I pray that the title deosn't turn them off, for I know men who will read this book and see their daughters, their sisters - and themselves. Ms. Dobie has written truthfully; and at the same time leaves us with the message that the world is a big, bad and beautiful place. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Dobie has a real gift for storytelling, and in this memoir of her childhood and teenage years she demonstrates just how enthralling she can be. Although the ostensible subject of "The Only Girl in the Car" is the author's sexuality during her teenage years, much of the book is devoted to a detailed recounting of her childhood, and this is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. The middle portion of the book recounts Dobie's sexual escapades as a teenager, culminating in the night she had sex with her boyfriend and his three friends in the backseat of his car. Afterwards, she must grapple with the negative reputation she's acquired, which she accomplishes by repackaging herself as a studious loner.
Much has been made of the scene of Dobie and her boyfriend's buddies (including the memoir's title), but it lacks the dramatic impact one would expect. It's apparent that on this night does she finally understands that she is neither respected nor loved by her boyfriend or his friends, and that she is reviled by much of her peer group. And it's certainly clear why she'd be upset at her boyfriend for coercing her into a degrading experience. But the emotional power of the scene is absent; Dobie's storytelling powers fail this most crucial test, and because the reader has been left out of the book's climactic scene, it's difficult to reinvest in the remainder of the book.
Still, there is a lot of value in the book. It's a demonstration of great strength on the part of its author. The book may seem lopsided in its lack of context; Dobie makes no effort to place her story in the larger feminist discourse. But it's still an important book, because it's important to her. It's one woman's story of how her life was, told in her own voice and on her own terms, and not only does she deserve applause for having written it, she also deserves a readership that appreciates her experience and the charm, resolve, and wit with which she recounts it.
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Format: Hardcover
Dobie's book can be split into two distinct parts, the first about her early girlhood in a crowded Catholic family of six, trying to form an identity for herself within her family. As an adolescent, Dobie relates more to boys than girls, and she makes some decisions that push her away from the girl cliques, yet she is never fully accepted by the boys. Dobie learns the hard way, the very hard way, that there are different standards for boys and girls, and this culminates in the life lesson of being "the only girl in the car" for a sexual assault.

The recovery portion of this memoir leaves the reader wondering about Dobie. She became chaste and stuck it out in high school until she could escape to the world of New York city and leave her past behind. I finished the book still wondering about her, as I think Dobie wondered about herself in the years to follow.
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