STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr

What a great book!

STORY OF A GIRL chronicles the summer of rising junior Deanna Lambert who was caught by her father in the back of Tommy’s Buick. Tommy, 17, was a friend of her older brother’s. Deanna didn’t love him, she’s not sure that she even liked him, but the story of their escapades got around town so that by the time she entered into highschool, she’d been branded as the school slut.

In addition to having a reputation, Deanna hasn’t had a real conversation with her father since the incident happened two years ago. He can’t look her in the face or trust her to make good decisions. Deanna decides that to escape her past, she will make enough money to be able to move out of her parent’s house, with her older brother, his girlfriend and their new baby, Deanna’s niece. The trio live in Deanna’s parent’s basement and their own story of struggle and sacrifice explores the very real consequences of a teenage pregnancy.

In order to afford this venture, Deanna takes on a summer job at the local pizza parlor and on her first day of work, discovers none other than Tommy, her Tommy, is her only other co-worker. He automatically takes to calling her Dee-Dee, his nickname for her and reminding her in degrading ways of their time together. Deanna is both repulsed and attracted to Tommy, if only because of their shared history and her low self-esteem.

Meanwhile her two best friends (boy and girl) are in love, which only further alienates her from the people who could be her allies. When a fight breaks out between her and her girlfriend, Deanna turns to Tommy, thinking he can make her feel good, if only for a little while. But she is sadly disappointed.

At the same time her brother and his girlfriend are on the outs and when they finally come back together, it’s obvious that their future plan doesn’t include Deanna as their live-in nanny, which only fuels her feelings of isolation and abandonment.

Story of a Girl is a compassionate novel that explores themes of forgiveness and self-control. It shows how Deanna manages to redefine herself through her own emotional growth and maturity, how she manages to face up to her  mistakes instead of trying to run away from them. Her story is told with such honesty and compassion, with such true-to-life moments that I found myself both cringing and crying. It is a truly moving book.

Bravo, Sara Zarr, bravo!

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