Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reading Roundup, Part Two

Both of these books are about two girls who are outcasts. Both are very much worth reading.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
5Q 4P S

It's the summer before her junior year, but Deanna Lambert is still remembered for something that happened when she was in eighth grade, when her father caught her stoned and having sex in the back seat of Tommy Webber's Buick. Three years later, he still hasn't forgiven her, and he's still not really speaking to her. At school, everyone knows what happened, and all sorts of rumors (most of them spread by Tommy) have made the rounds. Most of the girls don't speak to her, and the boys mostly want her to put out for them, too. If that wasn't bad enough, Deanna's two best (only) friends have just started dating, and Deanna's having trouble with that. And ever since her brother Darren got Stacey pregnant and they moved into the basement with their infant daughter, things have gotten even worse at home Their father is making everyone miserable. She just wants out. Out of her house, out of her town, and out of her life. Deanna has a plan. She'll get a job, save her money, and put a down payment on an apartment for herself, Darren, Stacey, and April. What she doesn't count on is that the only place that will hire a girl with a reputation like hers is a crappy pizza joint. And what she really doesn't count on is that Tommy is working there, too. She never loved Tommy. She was never even sure that she liked him. But she knows that she hates him now. But it's not like she has a real choice here. She needs the job. She'll just have to ignore Tommy. Unfortunately, Tommy is not that easy to ignore, and unfinished business has a way of demanding to be finished.

This is a story about relationships. It's a story about friendship and love. It's a story about what it means to be a family. It's a story about moving on, forgiving those who have hurt you and forgiving yourself. It's the story of a girl and so much more.

A quote or two:
Hearing his name like that, her saying it with so much affection like maybe she actually loved him. I don't know, but I wanted to knock the pizza and root beer off the table and run out of Picasso's. It wasn't fair, Lee getting to think about losing her virginity with a nice guy like Jason, someone who spent his last two bucks on her favorite cookie, someone who didn't get her stoned so he could feel her up, someone who didn't drive her to deserted parking lots without at least taking her out to a movie first. Someone who made a declaration for her, and not just in the backseat of a car. I didn't want her to have that, not with Jason. I felt so third grade, like I wanted to push Lee to the ground and say I knew him first.

I imagined a time not too far off when she and I would be pulling up to a different house, a different door. It would be a place we'd look forward to going to. We wouldn't be able to keep from relaxing into the seats as we pointed the car toward home. In a place like that, I'd be able to reach across whatever it was that couldn't let me be the kind of friend Lee needed that night, or to be the kind of daughter my dad wanted. I'd reach across and grab the hand of that other Deanna and say come on, it's okay now. You're home.

It came down to the smallest things, really, that a person could do to say I'm sorry, to say it's okay, to say I forgive you. The tiniest of declarations that built, one on top of the other, until there was something solid beneath your feet. And then...and then. Who knew?

Freak by Marcella Pixley
4Q 4P M/J

Miriam (also known as Shakespeare) knows she's not your typical seventh grader, and that's quite all right with her. So what if she prefers reading poetry and the dictionary to going to parties? So what if she prefers wearing comfortable clothes instead of the latest fashions? So what if she isn't the prettiest girl in the class? She's comfortable in her own skin. What puzzles her is why other people care so much about any of those things. What puzzles her is why her older sister Deborah, who used to be her best friend, has completely remade herself so that she can be popular. Now that Deborah has turned herself from a plain Jane into a beauty, from a weirdo into an it-girl, she wants nothing to do with Miriam. Her parents are no help. Not only are they excessively self-involved, they think marching to a different drummer makes Miriam special and respected. Miriam doesn't have the heart to tell them anything different. So when life starts getting really rough, Miriam has nobody to turn to but Clyde. She can tell Clyde anything. Clyde is her journal, and it's where she pours out all her feelings. She tells Clyde about the way the popular girls, led by Jenny Clarke, tease her, call her names, throw things at her, even push her around. She also tells Clyde about her crush on Artie, the senior boy who is living with her family while his is out of the country. Artie is her soul mate. He shares his poetry with her. He plays chess with her. He always takes her seriously. He is also seriously hot. Having Artie living with them for a year is a beautiful dream. But the dream quickly turns into a nightmare. The girls in her class find out about her crush on Artie and tease her mercilessly. Even worse, it soon becomes apparent that Artie isn't interested in her; he's interested in Deborah. The feeling is mutual. Miriam is crushed when word gets back to her that even Artie is saying cruel things about her. It gets harder and harder to pretend that she doesn't care. Because the truth is, of course she cares. But when she tries to "get with the program", things just go from bad to worse.

Miriam is a well-rounded character. You can see why some people would find her annoying. She talks too much, she puts herself in the middle of conversations she doesn't belong in, and sometimes she's so obsessed with herself that she can't see what's right in front of her eyes. But I admired her decision to stay true to herself. When someone needs her, she doesn't run away. When something goes wrong, she fights back instead of giving up. If that's a freak, we need more freaks in this world.

One long quote:
The only place on earth I hate as much as the lockers at school is the school bus. The school bus is a physical map of who's cool and who isn't. No one tells you where to sit...But if you know who you are, you know where to go. Here's how it works: the more popular you are, the closer you sit to the back of the bus; the more of a loser you are, the closer you sit to the front...Kids at the back of the bus are beautiful. They find each other because being seen together makes them look even better. Kids at the front of the bus know they are defective. they have pimples or glasses or crooked teeth or greasy hair. They are embarrassed to be seen. The only thing more dangerous than being a loser with a group of beautiful kids behind you is being part of a group of losers all corralled together, like pathetic lambs waiting to be slaughtered. And here's the worst part. We hate each other. We hate each other even more than the popular kids hate us. We hate each other because when we look at each other, we can see what they are laughing at.

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