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Rant on

(Someday, I will actually make a post when I like a book.  Until that day, I will keep griping about stories like "Story of a Girl," by Sara Zarr.)

So, for whatever reason, I picked up this book, which promises to "throw a sharp right hook at the assumptions people make about girls who have sex early."  I don't know WHY I am reading this book, but considering the girl was 13 and the opening sentences tell me it was a deliberate decision on her part, ten to one says I'm still calling her a stupid skank at the end.

(I meant to just make an edit, but I couldn't resist writing a running commentary as I went.  Also, you could probably make a drinking game out of the number of times I say "thirteen" and/or some variation of "stupid")

Ahahaha!  It's not just her, her older brother got his girlfriend pregnant, so instead of going to college they're living in the basement and raising a baby.  The father - having caught his 13 y/o daughter in the act years ago and apparently still not having forgiven her - pretty much despises both of his children for their sexual misadventures (which I find hilarious).  Observe:

"She was up at five with the baby, Dad," Darren said.  "She deserves to sleep in."
"What, she wants a reward for being a decent mother?  Getting up with the baby is just part of the deal when you decide to get pregnant."
Like Stacy just up and decided 'Gee, I think I'll get pregnant today.  It would be fun, and as a bonus it would really piss off Darren's dad.'

Well...she did decide to go the whole teenage-sex route, the potential consequences of which are the reason they tell you not to do it, and then she decided to go the whole keeping-and-raising-the-baby route, so...yeah, I'd say this Stacy deserves to be held accountable.  Can't blame the man for being grumpy.

HAHAHA!  And now the main character, Deanna, just got a job, only to find out she'll be working with the guy she slept with three years ago, when he was a junior (she's 16 when the current story takes place).   Her boss is all "Wait, you dated him when you were 13?   Isn't that a felony?" Oh, sure. 
And I wouldn't exactly call it dating.  Tommy would pick me up sometimes from junior high in the Buick.  We'd  get stoned on the beach and mess around.


This is page 54 of approximately 200, and I am not feeling any sympathy for her at all. 

Page 56: OH MY GOD.  He said doing that wasn't really sex, that I'd still be a virgin.  Then after a while, being a virgin somehow didn't matter so much.
I...adda...wibba...HOW ARE CHILDREN THIS STUPID.  The precise definition of intercourse really isn't the issue here.  It's the naked-below-the-waist issue ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE THIRTEEN that should clue you in to something being a problem. 

Page 78: Oh, did I mention the part where Deanna has two best friends, Lee and Jason, who happen to be dating each other?  And Deanna's kind of in love with Jason, whom she's known longer, but that didn't come about until he and Lee fell in love.  And now she's miserable because Lee is wangsting about whether or not she should sleep with Jason (who is a Really Nice Guy, and probably won't put up too much of a fuss if she says no, but again...he's a Really Nice Guy, so maybe she does want to, and OH, BEING SIXTEEN AND IN LOVE, IT IS SUCH EXQUISITE WOE).  Because one certainly could not cram too many teenage relationship cliches into one novel, not at all! 

Page 95: Okay.  So we're at the halfway point, right?  And so far, all I've seen to indicate the rationalization for sleeping with Creepy Junior Tommy is that one day, little 8th-grade Deanna was at home when he came over to hang out with her brother...she was putting on mascara, trying to look older, and he came over and told her that guys like it more when girls don't wear any of that crap, that it's best when they look fresh, like they just got out of the shower.  She washes her face and he leans over, real close, and tells her something like "that's better."  He must be really handsome, or something, because she practically swoons and then can't stop thinking about him.  A few weeks later, he shows up and asks her to go out.  She goes with him.  Bzuh?

We drove down to the coast that night and parked in the lot at Montara Beach, where Tommy lit a joint.  "You don't want any of this," he'd said.  "You're too young and sweet."
"You have no idea what goes on in junior high, do you," I said, taking the joint from him.  Still playing the game. 
He watched me take a hit.  It wasn't my favorite thing in the world, but I wanted to show Tommy I wasn't a kid.

*beats head into wall* Stupid, stupid, stupid.  First of all, seriously?  Middle school?  Pot?  If it wasn't for health, I would hardly have known drugs existed until I started watching TV...in, like, high school.  It took me 3 years to figure out "The Circle" on That 70s Show.  Until senior year, I had absolutely no idea that anyone at my school used it - I mean, obviously the statistics meant that some kids MUST be, but I couldn't have even begun to tell you who.  And I know I lived in a bubble - seriously, my sheltered experience has got to be something close to legendary, given that I went to a public school - but JUNIOR HIGH WHAT.

Second of all...no, sorry, still can't wrap my brain around the "I'm not a kid!!" mantra.  YOU ARE THIRTEEN.  YOU ARE A KID.  And if you want people to see you as older, could you at least do it the smart way, with advanced classes and maturity and responsible leadership postions, as opposed to Extreme Idiocy? 

Page 96: "You're so pretty.  You're prettier than any of the girls in high school.  They all look so made up and used up and fake, not like you."
Not like me.  Those words rang in my head, bouncing around the pot and the dizziness of being alone with Tommy, in his car, a boy - a MAN - telling me I had something other girls didn't.
First of all, when you're thirteen, thirteen, THIR-TEEN, you don't want a man.  Because that is creepy.  You want a boy.  Second of all, you've already lost your sympathy card from being stoned, but I'm still blinking in disbelief over how a creepy, cheesy line like that makes you feel special.  Maybe if he says it after you've known each other for months, and perhaps leaves out the "pretty" comment (oh, so shallow), but...not like this.  Come on.

Page 102: AWESOME.  Stacy just ditched her life and ran away.  I cannot stop laughing. (alas, she comes back after a couple of days at a party.  Sigh.)

Page 124: I'm sorry, what?  I thought I was supposed to see Deanna in a whole new light.  I can't do that if the first time Creepy Tommy gives her a ride home from work, she not only ends up taking a cigarette from him, but kissing him and letting him get her top off besides, and he is this close to getting her to do something else.

I remember that first time I didn't want to do it, really, I just wanted to keep kissing and stuff like we had been.  But I was stoned and it seemed like a reasonable alternative to going all the way and I didn't want him to get mad at me.  I didn't want it all to stop.

Rule #1: Don't get stoned.
Rule #2: Do not find yourself needing to make this decision.  Find a Really Nice Guy, or don't bother at all. 

Page 127: OK, well, she stopped herself and crashed into some kind of breakthrough, where she starts crying and sniffling about how he should have known better and she was young and stupid and it shouldn't have been like that, and I am so not feeling sympathetic at all.  Creepy Tommy, naturally, is totally bewildered and trying to figure out if she thinks he raped her back then.

"No.  No, I -- you never even took me out .  We never went to a movie.  We never just hung out and watched TV."  We never held hands, we never went for a walk, we never went out for anything to eat.  The longer the list got in my head, the more pathetic I felt.

Ding-ding-ding!  You ARE pathetic.  How could you not figure that stuff out when you were - I'm sorry, I still can't wrap my head around YOU WERE THIRTEEN!  God knows I had a massive and full-blown crush when I was 13, but even then I knew it was merely a fantasy in my head, and I wasn't old enough for anything real yet. And if I had been, there sure as hell would have been a lot of dates and handholding first.

Page 144: OH COME ON.  Now you're sneak-kissing Jason?  75% of the way through the book, and you're STILL a trampy little girl ruled by her hormones.  That is the assumption I've made about girls who have sex early, and it has not yet been right-hooked.

Page 170: Oh, sweet lord.  Now she's going to call up Lee and tell her what happened, because she's big on honesty now.  What is this HONESTY people are so obsessed with?  Honesty leads to hurt.  Clearly I am going to get walked all over if I ever date, but if the guy I'm seeing happens to kiss someone else, I don't want to know about it!  I mean, if there's a whole torrid affair going on, then it's a problem, but one kiss is just unpleasant and unnecessary knowledge.

Page 178: Oh, all right, apparently it didn't ruin everything, but still.

FINAL CONCLUSION: Yeah, I was right.  She was a stupid child then, who ought to have known better, and three years have given her scarcely any maturity at all.  One of the other blurbs on the back says "Anyone who has ever made a mistake that they regretted will find themselves at home in these pages."  Yeah, no, I don't think so.  Because I don't try to justify or expect sympathy or understanding for my stupid mistakes. I expect everyone to judge as harshly as I judge myself and then swiftly forget about it and never speak of it again.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
lieueitak
Feb. 24th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
o_O

Just looking at the amazon.com information and the author's website, I am leaning towards the belief that said author was trying to write a book about what she thinks is hip and cool for teens, lol. Just the little bits you've posted sound like a lame after school special. And really, if the author is trying to make everyone look at the sexually active thirteen year old differently, I think your prose have to be a helluva lot better. :-P
rainbowstevie
Feb. 25th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
Oh, I thought the prose was all right, but I don't know what assumptions the author thought she was trying to overturn. The only thing she did differently with the plot was lower the girl's age by a couple of years, and there was nothing particularly revealing about the girl's situation or her mindset.

Honestly, I know it's probably my own fault for reading YA books, but that shouldn't be an excuse for mediocre writing. Authors these days are so concerned with simultaneously being edgy and appealing to teens - I am not at all surprised that this ended up a finalist for the National Book Award - that they tend to lose out on, what's the word, quality of plot.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 24th, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC)
Sounds rather pathetic, to be honest. From my point of view, in real life, if a thirteen year old is having sex, its either from sexual abuse or piss-poor parenting. Now if the author had actually tried to show the connection between how she was raised and the choices she made, I think it'd be a compelling book. To me, it just sounds like a middle-school version of Girls Gone Wild - titillating details with no real life situations to back it up.
rainbowstevie
Feb. 24th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
*cracks up* Middle school girls gone wild...yeah, it's a little like that. As far as I can tell, there's absolutely nothing wrong with her home life - prior to her little escapade, she got along well with her parents, who in turn are happily married and provide a stable home. The author dropped one hint about how the girl's older brother got arrested & went to court for possession of marijuana around that time, but didn't follow up on it at all. As far as I can tell, her only problem was boredom from living in a small town. Which is...not an excuse at all.
poinsley
Feb. 24th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
Ugh, I don't want to think about 13 year olds having sex. (though I know there are a number that do) I teach that age group. They are children. Ick.
rainbowstevie
Feb. 25th, 2008 12:09 am (UTC)
Yes, it's quite skeevy. And a little bewildering to me, because thinking back to 8th grade...I can't even imagine anyone doing it then.
(Deleted comment)
rainbowstevie
Feb. 25th, 2008 04:07 am (UTC)
12?! Ew ew EW! EW! THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH EWS IN THE WORLD TO COVER THAT.

And it might not be that different. You have to understand that I managed to be so sheltered, that even by the time I graduated, were it not for statistics, I wouldn't have believed that anyone I went to school with even had sex. The teachers probably knew more than I did about untoward behaviors.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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