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Roundup: Girls in Crisis

Double feature crisis show!

Today we’ve got not one but two — TWO! — reviews for the price of one click. Really, these two books — Fat Angie and 17 & Gone — have very little in common, but they are both March pubs and have some thematic overlap, dealing as they do with girls in distress. Not damsels in distress, but the kind of deep-seated internal anguish that is too often intrinsic to teen girls, saddled as they are with expectations and beliefs and the need to always be aware.

0763661198 336x500 Roundup: Girls in CrisisFat Angie, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Candlewick, March 2013
Reviewed from ARC

One of the things I (Joy) am very aware of as a reviewer is how my life experience influences my perception of accuracy. This conversation started to develop when we discussed The Lucy Variations and I find it relevant to my reading of Fat Angie as well.

The premise is tragic with a side of quirky: our titular protagonist is an overweight teenager dealing with the bullies at school, a cold mother, a mean adopted older brother, and a sister who has almost certainly been killed in Iraq. Charlton-Trujillo explores Angie’s coming-of-age, which is precipitated by the arrival of new girl, KC Romance, who sparks Angie’s interest and then desire. Accuracy is the significant guideline for my reading of this work because despite the stylistic flair frequently on display in the text, the characterizations aren’t just flat, they come across as flat-out wrong.

I take particular issue with Angie’s classmates. High school is full of angst; teens are mean; every school will have bullies—these are realities I am willing to accept exist in varying degrees in every school across the country at this moment. But Angie isn’t just overweight and a little odd; this is a girl who, after reports of her sister’s death started to flood the news, attempted suicide in front of the entire school at a pep rally. That one girl, Stacy Ann, could bully Angie mercilessly makes sense because Charlton-Trujillo gives that character a backstory to explain her anger (in a slightly inelegant revelation, but it works within the narrative). It’s much harder to accept that a large group of teenagers led by Stacy Ann could be so cruel to a girl in crisis. Maybe I’m an idealist or maybe I have a skewed perspective because in my professional career working with teenagers, I’ve never seen bullying on this kind of scale. Regardless of why, I don’t buy for one second the bullying that Angie experiences in this novel.

There are more than just problematic bullies here; Angie’s champions are similarly perplexing. KC Romance seems to have no clear reason for her gravitation to Angie other than instinct, which doesn’t entirely make sense given KC’s cool, mysterious persona. Sure, KC recognizes that Angie’s an outsider and picked on, but that doesn’t explain how they become so close. (Also, her name is KC Romance. This is trying way too hard to sound like a funky bad-girl name.)

There are elements in the book that really work beautifully; the nature of loss and how it affects already fragile teens is thoughtfully woven throughout the story. Charlton-Trujillo has a strong voice and style, playing with rhythm and form, in a third-person limited narrative that often feels like first (in a good way). The more I think about this one though, more and more flaws come to the surface, making it impossible to truly consider this a contender this year. Perhaps you feel differently?

 

 

17gone Roundup: Girls in Crisis17 & Gone, Nova Ren Suma
Dutton Books, March 2013
Reviewed from final copy

I (Karyn now — isn’t this confusing?) went into this wanting to love it. Suma has a way with a sentence that is really special. Gorgeous, even: just look at that opening paragraph. There’s an almost poetic elegance on display; rhythm and repetition play a part, certainly, but I’m also struck by the way long and short sentences alternate to give a sense of relentless forward motion. Language here propels the story and matches it with intensity and drive.

From a sentence level, I am all about this one.

And the premise is intriguing. I want the story of the way girls disappear, the story set out in those first pages, where girls disappear in ways dangerous and safe, realistic and impossible, tragic and mundane. There was a set up there about what it means to be a girl, about how big and dangerous and unknowable the world is and how girls on the cusp of womanhood are also dangerous and unknowable, but also endangered.

In the end, though, I felt that the promise made in that opening didn’t entirely pan out. Maybe this is one of those moments where the book I read wasn’t the book I wanted and the failing is the reader’s (i.e., mine) and not the writer’s, but I found myself feeling as if the text itself set up one story but delivered a slightly different one — the text says this is a tale about girls, but the story in the end is about one girl and her dubious sanity. Of course, the narrative voice is Lauren’s voice, and maybe it’s not that the book fails to make good on the thematic scope it seems to promise; maybe it’s Lauren who wants her story to be part of something bigger but ultimately it’s not, and so the book is not either?

If that’s the case, and that’s the case on purpose, then maybe this is a stronger contender than I’ve been giving it credit for.

I’m also struggling with the sense that I didn’t actually LIKE this one very much, and trying to determine if there’s something in the text that left that sense of dislike. It’s odd to find the writing so powerful and well executed and still walk away dissatisfied with the text as a whole, so I’ve been thinking about other aspects. Characterization? There were many moments where I was more compelled by the stories of the lost girls Lauren imagines than I was by Lauren herself. Especially Fiona, who may be something more than a delusion (and I did find that uncertainty and the ending, which exploits that — ghost? Or girl who won’t let go of her own mental illness? — very strong). Pacing? For me, there were moments that dragged. Ultimately I can’t say with absolute conviction whether these responses are a question of taste or of some shortcoming in the writing, so I’m hoping others will have opinions. Probably I should go back and reread, but the dislike factor has me reluctant to do so unless someone can convince me this is top, say, 15 material — basically, if I were a RealCommittee member, this would not be my nomination. If it would be yours, speak up.

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Comments

  1. Mark Flowers says:

    I can’t really say much in defense of 17 & Gone because you’ve already said it all in your questioning of yourself: “If that’s the case, and that’s the case on purpose, then maybe this is a stronger contender than I’ve been giving it credit for.” I think that is exactly the case on purpose.

    “Characterization? There were many moments where I was more compelled by the stories of the lost girls Lauren imagines than I was by Lauren herself.” Again, I think this is precisely on purpose.

    As for the dislike factor – I dunno what to say except that I loved it from start to finish. I too will need to reread this one before the end of the season to see if my (opposite) emotional response is coloring my (opposite) critical one.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      So Mark, do you rate this in, say, top 5? Top 10?

      And say more about why/how you think the girls are intentionally more compelling, please!

      • Mark Flowers says:

        Um, I rate it top 1, currently.

        But I have to be honest – I read it in ARC in October or November 2012, so I have basically no ability to call to mind specific facts about it.

        My general thought on the girls is that (if I recall correctly) Lauren herself thinks of them as more interesting and compelling than her. Once it is revealed that they are (or at least might be) figments of her mind, then they should (or can be) regarded as elements of her psyche, and therefore the rich characterization of the girls reflects back onto Lauren. If that makes sense.

        I promise I’ll reread it soon and get back to you.

      • Mark Flowers says:

        OK – I raced home last night and read through this book again (not that I needed much of an excuse) and here’s what I’ve got.

        I see the characterization of Lauren as being the characterization of her mentally ill mind. From my own experience with mental illness, what that means is that “who you are” becomes intrinsically tied up with “how is your disease functioning”. For example, in my own case, I have Generalized Anxiety — for a long time before I got treatment, the answer to the question “how are you today” was “how anxious did I feel today”. Everything becomes filtered through that.

        So, back to Lauren: for her possible-schizophrenia, her self becomes defined by how she interacts with and imagines the voices and images of the girls. Suma actually makes this pretty explicit in several ways. One is through Lauren constantly referring to herself as “one of” the 17-year-olds. She sees herself as simply one of a group of lost girls and her attempts to distinguish them and give them meaning and purpose are part of her struggle to give her own self meaning and purpose. Second, Suma explicitly has Lauren say that she can’t function without the girls, in particular Fiona: “Fiona has given me no words, so I have nothing to say” (p. 298). “I don’t let myself think about Jamie . . . Fiona stops me. She wants me to see . . .” (p.313).

        In both of those cases, Lauren’s dissociation into being just part of the girls becomes more pronounces as the story goes on. So that at the beginning of the novel, she is a bit more individualized — making snarky comments about “some Good Samaritan (or a creeper disguising himself as a Good Samaritan)” (p. 10); getting along with her mom — but it pretty quickly moves right into her illness. So that means that, since almost the entirety of the novel takes place while Lauren is at the height of her illness, we are never going to get what we might think of as a three dimensional character study, because for Lauren, everything is laser-focused on those girls. What we can see, is Lauren’s amazing (schizophrenia-fueled) imagination –conjuring the stories of these girls–and we can possibly infer some of what Lauren is like – her hopes and fears – from the characteristics she gives to the girls.

        A few other comments:

        I don’t think this is a perfect book, by any means. In the first 50 pages or so, Suma repeats this phrase several times about how Lauren “knows” something “the way she knows” something else. I have no problem with the sentiment Suma is going for, but the repititions got tiring. Fortunately the rest of Suma’s sentence level writing was, as Karyn says, superb. I found the first half or so practically hypnotic. And only someone of Suma’s talents could come up with a phrase like “the sickening smack of a suicide on the tiled foyer floor” (p. 78) — visceral and disgusting, yet made strangely attractvie through the alliteration.

        Another criticism I had was the very end, after Lauren finds the purse. Chapter 63 in particular was pretty limp, and the “Three Months Later” section while a bit better was still anticlimactic, I felt — certainly not pulsing with the energy Suma brought to the rest of the book.

        • Karyn Silverman says:

          I think I like the book much better now, thanks! Not convinced it can go the distance, but this makes the flat character make sense in a way I hadn’t considered.

  2. Lcanon says:

    I haven’t read Fat Angie (it sounds a little like Manstealing for Fat Girls) but I do want to second your observations of high-school bullying. My experience is that bullying reaches a peak in middle school. High school was much freer, much more about finding your own way. Also, a good deal of what went on in my high school was about ignoring people who were not in your group. (This is much more devastating, in a way, than outright bullying — there were plenty of girls who wouldn’t have bothered to insult me because that would have meant acknowledging me.) I only mention it because the complexities of high school society almost never get a full treatment in YA lit. Particularly the treatment of bullying almost never comes off as real.

    • Joy Piedmont says:

      I haven’t read Manstealing for Fat Girls, so I can’t comment on the similarities (or differences) between those two, but I’m not surprised that the premise reminds you of something else. The depiction of KC seemed especially generic.

  3. Elizabeth K. says:

    Very much agree with this review of 17 & Gone. The book just didn’t work for me. It failed my own Unreliable Narrator test, which is at the end of an Unreliable Narrator story, everything should fall into place in a stunning way that makes it seem like it should have been obvious the whole time. But this story felt more like it lost steam, that the reveal finally happened because the author got tired of keeping up the pretense. It failed to convince me that there was no other way for the story to end.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      I like that test! Curious how often books pass — and whether passing that test is personal/subjective (obviously it is a little, but I imagine there’s an objective element too). Can you name a few that have passed for you?

      • Elizabeth K. says:

        Recently, Code Name Verity worked very well in this regard (although most of that reveal comes midway, not at the very end). I thought this feature of Chime was a little heavy-handed, but plot-wise, handled pretty well. Outside of YA, Gone Girl — which I had a lot of other issues with — was successful in making the unreliable narrator aspects extremely tight.

        Overall, I would probably be more forgiving about this particular feature of the book had it hooked me in other ways.

    • Mark Flowers says:

      While I understand the intuitive appeal of that test, I just don’t see how it works as a catch-all tool. The very first person who pops into my head when I think “unreliable narrator” is Poe – and I can think of several of his best stories that would fail this test miserably: “Fall of the House of Usher” “Tell-Tale Heart” “Black Cat”. People are still arguing about what “really” happened in those stories almost two centuries later.

      • The first one I think of is the Governess in James’ TURN OF THE SCREW…and there are absolutely no answers at the end–just a lot more questions.

      • Maureen E says:

        I suspect it works for one category of unreliable narrators–the kind where the narrator has a secret they are hiding. (i.e. Megan Whalen Turner’s THE THIEF) But I don’t think it works at all for the kind of narrator who is personally unsure of what is real/reliable and what is not. (i.e. Franny Billingsley’s CHIME) For me, Lauren falls into that second category.

  4. I’m the author of FAT ANGIE. For those who have read it and it wasn’t your read, no worries. Not every book is for everyone. I would like to say that for anyone who still thinks bullying can’t evolve on an epic scale, visit any of number of the stops I’ve had on my unconventional book tour. Talk with the kids at Fair View High School in Chico, CA or the Care Center in Holyoke, MA. It’s a sad state of affairs when you get it from the trenches of hurt.

    For those who want to weigh in and haven’t read, drop me a line before November 1st, and I’ll get you a Kindle copy.

    Rock The Word!

    e.

  5. Carrie Gordon says:

    I’m also a little surprised at the perception that large-scale bullying along the order of what occurs in FAT ANGIE (which I have, in fact, read) does not exist. I’ve been a high school teacher for nearly three decades. I’ve watched the whole realm of bullying level up, get deeper, meaner, sometimes more subversive in the sense that kids have become masterful at going underground with it because they know it’s on the adult radar. The interactions in FAT ANGIE rang with absolute truth given what I’ve seen, heard, and had to address and discipline at my own school; it squares with what I hear from other teaching colleagues at other schools across the country; it matches with what kids tell me happens in their own homes. I’m horrified by what kids say and do to each other, oftentimes right in front of me, oftentimes not even realizing the impact of their words or actions. And I think what’s so staggering is that these same kids, one on one, are usually really decent kids. But I do take issue with the notion that “It’s much harder to accept that a large group of teenagers led by Stacy Ann could be so cruel to a girl in crisis.” That’s exactly when it happens: in the safety of numbers and the anonymity of the internet. That’s been my experience, and for me it’s what makes FAT ANGIE such a powerful story.

  6. Marcia says:

    I loved Fat Angie. It sang my song. For me, high school was a nightmare that even now brings back feelings of terror. Although I am 59 years old, I still remember the packs of girls who bullied my friends and me relentlessly. We were taunted, jeered at, slapped, kicked, stabbed with pins, and thrown into lockers. I attempted suicide because of it although not in front of the school. This lasted well into my senior year of high school. Maybe things are different now but for me bullying and taunting lasted through my entire high school years. I love Fat Angie for so many reasons but the biggest one is that she, like me, survived intact and retained her ability to love and be loved in spite of incredible opposition. The characters rang true to me; I lived this story. As a lesbian AND a civil rights activist living in the south in the 60′s and 70′s, I can tell you that the badgering, bulling, tormenting, physical and emotional aggression and abuse was there all the way through school. To this day I have bad dreams about it and have never attended a class reunion. Maybe if you are pretty and popular then high school bullying does not exist but in my world it was a very real and present menace. But, like Angie, I survived and became a stronger person to it. I love this book and will continue to recommend it highly. As a teacher for many years, I think it has a relevance particularly to my special education students who often are the brunt of aggression because they are different. Rock on Angie! I think this book should be required reading for teachers in training.

    • Joy Piedmont says:

      Thank you, Marcia and Carrie, for sharing your personal stories. I know that bullying is difficult to talk about especially if it’s your own story and I appreciate your perspectives. As I’ve said in this post and in others regarding accuracy, it is a terribly subjective thing to judge when analyzing any novel under the Printz guidelines, which is the main purpose of this blog. Everyone has a limited worldview and set of experiences, and I recognize that my opinion on accuracy is not the same as everyone else’s. As readers, it is important that we share our perspectives and personal narratives because it helps us understand where that person’s reading is coming from.

      Incidentally, we had a guest speaker at our faculty meeting this afternoon present on the subject of bullying prevention and intervention. The presentation really helped illuminate how nuanced and complex the situation is in schools; and this is precisely the quality I found lacking in Fat Angie. Bully, victim, and allies all seem to be archetypes rather than full-bodied characters. Archetypes certainly have their place in literature, but I’m not sure that they work in a novel that hangs upon such a unique individual’s emotional journey.

      I agree that Fat Angie is a powerful book that will touch many teenage readers and help them work through their personal experiences, particularly those dealing with any kind of trauma. Despite that wonderful quality, it is not a factor we can consider in light of the Printz Award. Furthermore, the bone of contention here, accuracy, is just one of nine criteria (story, voice, style, setting, accuracy, characters, theme, illustrations, design) the RealCommittee use to judge literary excellence. It’s important to remember that even if we feel a book is exemplary in just one of these categories, it does not mean that it deserves Printz recognition.

  7. T. Bartlett says:

    Oh, this review of Fat Angie made me cringe for quite a few reasons. First, you say, “Accuracy is the significant guideline for my reading of this work because despite the stylistic flair frequently on display in the text, the characterizations aren’t just flat, they come across as flat-out wrong.” This is the way you begin your review of Fat Angie? It basically boils down to you declaring that you search for accuracy while reading? I’m not sure why you feel the need to divulge this considering this is kind of a given in realistic fiction. I also take this to mean that your statement is an attempt to prohibit others from seeing the inaccuracies of your review. I assure you that I have not been prohibited from this.

    Inaccuracy #1:
    *Maybe I’m an idealist or maybe I have a skewed perspective because in my professional career working with teenagers, I’ve never seen bullying on this kind of scale. Regardless of why, I don’t buy for one second the bullying that Angie experiences in this novel.”

    Have you not read the news? Ever? If bullying were as insubstantial and/or non-problematic as you would like to proclaim, then no person would ever attempt or commit suicide, no school would ever develop anti-bullying programs, no laws would ever seek to curb bullying, no author would ever need to travel country-wide to talk with kids about their experiences with bullying, etc.

    I’m not sure what your experience is with kids, but as a parent, former teacher, and former student, I have seen bullying and to varying degrees. I know of many people who can attest that there are some in the world who seek to do harm to others. Just because your eyes are closed to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Inaccuracy:
    “KC Romance seems to have no clear reason for her gravitation to Angie other than instinct, which doesn’t entirely make sense given KC’s cool, mysterious persona. Sure, KC recognizes that Angie’s an outsider and picked on, but that doesn’t explain how they become so close.”

    For the superficial answer: Oh, if we all had Cupid’s ear, it would be such a great world, eh? Is a reason needed when love is involved? Now for the serious answer: shame on you for the perpetuation of this skinny body image/love ideal. Why does KC Romance need to fall in love with someone who own size? She doesn’t, I suppose, unless she’s in your world and in your truth. This isn’t the truth, thank God, for many others.

    And to address your need for exposition, there are many stories – real and fiction – where there is no exposition given. Any writer worth their salt will ask themselves about serving the purpose of the story. I can assure you, there is no purpose served here in explaining why someone fell in love with someone else – especially since you are looking for the reason for KC Romance, a thin girl, falling in love with a fat girl. Ask yourself where you have seen this explanation in any other story.

    Your version of accuracy is obviously pooled from a very small and safe segment of the population and this review has been developed within a flawed framework of critical thinking. Given this, your review of Fat Angie is baseless and teeters on dangerous given that it perpetuates negative and harmful stereotypes and seeks to deny the experiences that many people deal with daily, thereby denying them – directly or indirectly – of their humanity and dignity.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      Just a reminder to everyone, here at Someday we have a very particular purpose.

      We are discussing books in the narrow context of the Printz award, which is an award for literary merit. For both of the books covered in this post, we have noted the positive aspects (Joy specifically mentioned in one of her comments that Fat Angie will be an important book for many). However, we are in the end engaged in an elimination game, which means examining flaws sometimes takes front and center stage. We do ask that discussion stay focused on literary merits within the Prinz confines as much as possible; we’ve parsed the Printz criteria in the past and if you haven’t read the original criteria, please do so and feel free to read our analysis and understanding as well. Do note that accuracy is a specific point within the criteria as is characterization.

      Thanks so much!

  8. T. Bartlett says:

    Hello, Karyn,

    Your response, a metaphorical slap on the hand, appears to gloss over my entire post in which I discuss the ideas of accuracy and characterization. My post questions the validity of Joy’s review, as it pertains to some of the Printz guidelines. I disagreed with Joy’s analysis, and disagreement is not a bad thing. It is merely conflict, to speak in literary terms.

    I believe that Joy’s review is erroneous and contains dangerous disqualifiers in which she writes off two things based on accuracy: the varying degrees of bullying and fat people as being unworthy of the love from cool people.

    I am not arguing for you to consider, or reconsider, Fat Angie for the Printz award. I am asking you to rethink your qualifiers of accuracy, in the hope that you would adopt a world view, so that future reviews do not exclude and write off entire segments of humanity as being unworthy. While subjectivity is something to which you can always fall back upon in reviews, I do not believe the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature would stand for this kind of human indifference.

    Best regards,
    T. Bartlett

    • Joy Piedmont says:

      So firstly, I want to say that I apologize for a lack of clarity in my writing that seems to be the source of your issue with my review.

      Regarding accuracy as a category used for Printz assessment: I’ve said in previous posts on this blog, in my review, and in this comment thread that accuracy is tricky. While I would love to have a rich background of life experience, cultural sensitivity, and worldliness in order to correctly assess accuracy in every situation, I’m human, I’m flawed, and it’s just not a realistic goal. I don’t think any individual can always bring all of that to an assessment of accuracy: the best that we all do is to use what we know and rely on others to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and experience, to listen, ask why and learn from each other. I’m sorry that you read my assessment of Fat Angie’s accuracy to mean anything other than that I believe Fat Angie’s depiction of bullying–that social group bullying that particular girl–didn’t make sense given the set parameters of the world presented. I was not trying to “write-off” or marginalize any group of people.

      I recognize that bullying is a serious and very present problem facing youth today (just as it has for decades). Full stop. It happens and it’s a problem; a very multifaceted one that requires a nuanced approach in order for prevention and intervention.

      Back to accuracy: when I think about accuracy in any novel (here it’s always with the Printz in mind) I’m using my own experiences and beliefs *in addition to* what makes sense for the world of the novel. In a fantasy like Seraphina, assessing accuracy involves thinking about the logic of the world, that is, the strength or weakness of the world building. In a contemporary realistic novel like Fat Angie, I think about the emotional accuracy as well as how the novel reflects (or distorts) or reality. Finally, my assessment of accuracy is an opinion, not a statement to be held up as truth. This is the something that the RealCommittee grapples with; piecing together each individual’s reading/interpretation of the text to decide if the novel is exemplary.

      To address your concerns about my opinion of Angie and KC’s relationship: I criticize the lack of narrative and character development around Angie and KC’s relationship, not the fact that Angie is overweight and KC is not. In fact, Angie’s weight was not mentioned in my critique of their relationship at all.

      To echo your statement above, disagreement is not a bad thing; I thank you for sharing your opinion and I respect where you are coming from. I hope you now have a better understanding of what I was trying to say.

  9. T. Bartlett says:

    Hello, Joy,

    Thank you for the clarification. I can see what you are saying more clearly now. I appreciate the added insight.

    I still must disagree with the need for exposition as it pertains to the relationship between KC Romance and Angie, and I leave you with a thought. Feel free to address it or consider it rhetorical as I suppose we could go on for a while with this idea. Consider other titles and the relationships therein: Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), Leisel Meminger and Rudy Steiner (The Book Thief), Pudge Halter and Alaska Young (Looking for Alaska), and Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley any different from that of KC Romance and Angie? The drawing of characters together in many cases is never explained nor justified.

    Based on this idea, it feels like there is an undue burden being placed here which leads me to the question of why? It still feels to me like you are looking for a justification of their relationship. I have read books where I was left with wanting more or feeling somehow left behind, but I don’t always think those are problems that the authors were supposed to address.

    Just some food for thought.

    Best regards,
    T. Bartlett

  10. Elizabeth Burns says:

    I read 17 & Gone. I’ve been mulling over what/how to comment, but part of it is that I don’t see 17 & Gone as a “girls in crisis” book; and I don’t see how the symptoms & resulting diagnosis cause Lauren “anguish” that is unique to girls. I thought 17 & Gone was strong — strong enough to get it to the table for discussion — in its look at how an individual is interpreting the symptoms of schizophrenia, how it alters themselves, how those around her deal with it, while being a book that is more than an “issue book about a teen with xxx” but also a mystery, showing that :Lauren and her life is more than “teen with xxxx”.

    I found Lauren very compelling, and, as Mark says above, what she is thinking about them reveals more aspects of her own character, her own concerns, and yes, this is tied to being a teenaged girl in that she is — aside from the diagnosis that is to come — at the place that any teen finds herself as she looks at the world and the options and the way girls are treated, viewed, and talked about. To the extent this is a “girl issue,” I would suggest no, it’s not an “issue” — it’s a realistic reaction to world that remains sexist and narrow in its options for teenage girls. It’s realistic for a working class outsider in a rich town, as Lauren is, even before the story begins — and before her symptoms start. As Mark notes, we only know Lauren “after,” not “before.”

    Elizabeth K mentions an interesting Unreliable Narrator test (Unreliable Narrator story, everything should fall into place in a stunning way that makes it seem like it should have been obvious the whole time.) I have to confess, this is the first time I’ve heard this as a definition/test for an UN. I’ll be considering it going forward, but I think part of the reason I won’t be using it all the time is I think an UN is more than a Verity/Julie who is deliberately misleading the reader, with a “real” story lurking in the background. An UN can also be because – -as here — the narrator doesn’t know what is “real”. Add the potential that this really is a ghost story, except with only one of the girls, and who knows what is real? I can live with that in a book. It can also be an UN who is hiding/trying to make themselves look better, etc. (The UN I dislike the most is Cordelia/other in THAT IS ALL, and I think that soundly fails that test, but I don’t think it fails as UN — but that’s a different issue!)

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      I have a LOT of respect for you/your critical reading, Liz, and same for Mark, so I’ll concede this might be a book where I am the outlier reader — with Elizabeth by my side, maybe! Although interestingly enough the local librarian’s book club were not fans, for reasons both subjective (didn’t like it) and objective (flat character, pacing issues are the two things I remember coming up repeatedly).

      Hmmm.

      As far as the word crisis goes — Kelly took me to task on Twitter for this one too. It may have been a slightly glib title but I never said it was an issue book. I do think it’s trying to examine something essential about being a girl at a vulnerable age. I wasn’t thinking of Lauren’s schizophrenia when I said “deep-seated internal anguish” (and the girls in crisis was with an eye to all the girls in 17 & Gone, not just Lauren, because as I said, I found many of the other stories more compelling for all their brevity) so much as I was thinking about the societal pressures and fears that shaped the particular output and symptoms of her schizophrenia (and the experiences of the other girls); I think her delusions reflect how hard it is, amidst our conflicted messaging to girls, to find your way from childhod to adulthood.

      (The Twitter convo also raised whether 17 & Gone should have been paired with September Girls. I think that pairing is to the detriment of 17 & Gone, because I think SG does more with the ideas, but there is something to it.)

      • Kelly says:

        I haven’t had a chance to comment yet but just wanted to jump in and clarify that I didn’t say 17 & Gone should be paired with September Girls. Rather, I thought that the exploration of identity in either was interesting and how you spoke to that in each review was markedly different (primarily the overarching “crisis” and “breakdown” for 17 & Gone vs. what could have possibly been deemed the same thing in September Girls).

  11. Maureen E says:

    For what it’s worth, where 17 & Gone is concerned, my reading is much closer to Mark and Liz’s. I do see the point in Karyn’s comment above about using ‘girls in crisis’ as a way to reflect on the overall sense of society failing the girls in the book. However, I do think that Mark’s reading is great and I found both Lauren and the story overall extremely compelling. It’s definitely in my top ten, and I think my top five. I will try to shape my thoughts into a more Printzly form later.

    Fat Angie–I think both Karyn and Joy have said it well, and I’ll leave it at that.

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