This story grabbed me from page one. What drew me in were the interesting setting and true-to-life characters--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.
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.
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 slut" (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.
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.
I think what struck me most with this book is how Deanna Lambert grows without any sort of "token" from the outside world involved (she does get a job at a pizza place, but it's not the ultimate conduit of change). And that's important, that change occurs out of her NEED to change. How often do we come across a character who changes during the course of a story without some sort of contrived experience to catapult her forward? Deanna has her past and her present. That's all. She grows out of a WILLINGNESS to change and strengthen. She's tired of who she has become and right before she falls apart, confronts those demons of her past so she can move forward.
Zarr gives her reader hope: it doesn't take money, weaponry, magical elves, potions, adventures or heroes to pull a person out of desperation. All it takes is what we have: a mind, a voice and a willingness to forgive.
As a reader I am always taken aback when I come across a book that feels real. The kind that brings you into its story with a character you'd swear is alive. This is such a book.
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