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Story of a Girl Paperback – 2008
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"Sara Zarr's first novel tells an engrossing story with exquisitely drawn characters. Story of a Girl is the rarest mix: It's both impossible to put down and the kind of book that stays with you long after you've finished reading it."
―John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska
"This is a hell of a good book."
―Chris Crutcher, author of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
"Throws a sharp right hook at the assumptions people make about girls who have sex early."
―E. Lockhart, author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and The Boyfriend List
"A heartfelt, realistic novel about being defined by one moment, one choice, and then having to reinvent who you are....An evocative, thoughtful read from a debut author to watch."
―Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Jingle Dancer and Indian Shoes
* "Realistic fiction at its best. Zarr's storytelling is excellent....An emotionally charged story...recommended for both teens and the adults who live and work with them."
―School Library Journal (starred review)
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Although Deanna makes mistakes and isn’t always thoughtful, she’s very sympathetic. No victim of statutory rape deserves to be labeled a slut. She thought she was a willing participant, but was too young to consent, too young to understand the consequences of her actions, too young to have sex. When I was in high school in the late 1970s, early 1980s, a senior dating an eighth grader wasn’t taboo. **I** thought it odd a football star would date a middle schooler in one instance, but what did I know about dating. A friend told be, “She’s a cheerleader” as if that shrunk the age gap. I’m glad we know better now.
Tommy told all his friends following Deanna’s father’s discovery, made his behavior a joke and suffered no consequences. Standards for sexual behavior are unfortunately different for boys and girls, men and women. He’s a stud, she’s a slut for the same actions.
I loved Deanna’s relationship with her brother and with her boss, Michael.
THE STORY OF A GIRL is a story of forgiveness, forgiving others for their imperfections and bad behavior and most of all forgiving ourselves, yet never pushes an agenda of forgiveness as necessary. Sara Zarr shows the story in a poignant, but never overwrought manner.
I didn’t appreciate how Tommy’s workplace behavior went unaddressed by Michael, although Michael did say he’d protect her. Tommy clearly harassed Deanna, in subtle ways like standing too close and with verbal innuendo. I wish that had been addressed as not okay, especially since Michael was portrayed as a hero to Deanna.
THE STORY OF A GIRL is a good illustration of double standards with an imperfect, realistic ending.
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. Story of a Girl makes the reader really think about the importance of reputation, and examines just how misleading a person's reputation can be.
Story of a Girl was, for the most part, an interesting read and an honest, gritty depiction of small town life. It's not a light read and it's not meant to be. It definitely carries an important message to teens, in a way that might actually reach them. It wasn't a personal favorite of mine, but it's a book that has value and I can see why it has so many good reviews.