Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr


Title: Story of a Girl 

Author: Sara Zarr 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Sara Zarr is a name that crosses every well-read reader’s lips at some point – every well-read reader, that is, except me. Thus, when I saw Zarr’s Story of a Girl sitting quite alone on the shelves of my library, I just knew I had to pick it up; I certainly haven’t regretted my choice. While this was one of the quickest novels I’ve read lately, it packed a whole lot of punch, heart-wrenching scenes, and true character connection in such a short amount of pages. It was provocative, compelling, and is a story I really had to mull over for hours afterwards since it simply would not get out of my head. It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect in the lessons it conveyed and that, I believe, is what is truly important.

When Deanna is caught nearly having sex in the back of a truck with her older brother’s best friend, Tom, her entire life is ruined. Not only does Tom spread nasty rumors about her, destroying her social image, but it was her father who caught her, effectively building up a seemingly unbreakable wall between their relationship. Even now, three years later, Deanna is still subjected to her father’s cold stare and hard ignorance as well as the whiplash of an entire town. Yet, this summer, Deanna has a plan – work, make money, and move out with her older brother, his girlfriend, and their unplanned child who are all currently living in the basement of their current home. As Deanna will come to realize though, her life isn’t something she can plan and going forward isn’t an option until you’ve dealt with the past.*

From the beginning itself, Deanna was a compelling heroine. While it may seem as if the reader should instantly dislike her for her actions, we are unable to as we see this unfortunate situation from Deanna’s perspective; from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl who wasn’t enjoying herself in the backseat of a car with an older guy, who didn’t want to go that far with someone older than her, who wasn’t ready for that type of a relationship, but who simply wanted attention and care from someone, especially if her own family would not give it to her. Thus, within the first few pages itself, we feel for Deanna and pity her situation. Yet, what struck me the most about her tale was that instead of Deanna, her life could have been any of ours. It is basic human nature to want to be loved and cared for and if any one of us were dealing with the same circumstances in life as Deanna, there is a high possibility we may have committed the same mistakes too. No one, though, deserves to be blamed for those actions even three years later, which is where the true injustice of this tale comes through.

Now, at sixteen, Deanna still isn’t a perfect character. If anything, she’s in love with her best friend who is now the boyfriend of her one-and-only girl best friend. Furthermore, she still commits mistakes, makes a fool of herself, and is thrown into situations she has no control over. Yet, while this is primarily Deanna’s tale, it is also the tale of her brother who is attempting to be a good father and husband at such a young age. I found the family dynamics in Deanna’s life to be extremely lacking, but her relationship with her brother was one I truly cherished. I liked how much a part of each others’ lives they tried to be and if it wasn’t her brother, it was her brother’s girlfriend who became Deanna’s friend. So, while Deanna did still commit many blunders in this story, she slowly begins to close up the wounds that started three years ago, whether it was forgiving Tom or moving on from her past or accepting her feelings for her best friend or facing the issues her family faced to survive together.

But, while I found this novel to be very compelling and a story that grabbed me into its pages and made me feel for its characters, I was just a tad bit disappointed that Deanna didn’t experience more growth. In fact, the ending of this story was very open and while it healed some rifts, I would have liked to the see the culmination and consequences of some of the others. What I liked though, was that Zarr made this a very realistic story. Deanna’s father was a despicable man who I hated for his treatment of Deanna, but I understood him too because of his ego and pride. So, while I wanted their relationship to heal overnight, I’m glad it didn’t – I’m glad that her father is still mostly a jerk, but a slightly improving one. Many aspects of Deanna’s life are left like this and we don’t really know what will become of her or her friends or anyone in her life, but we do know that she is strong enough to have faced all this and come out alive, which means she can face much more in the future. At its core, Story of a Girl is really a story of courage, bravery, and hope and I adored it. It was extremely well written and as far as debuts go, this was impeccable. I will definitely be reading more of Sara Zarr in the future – it’s hard not to be drawn to an author who writes this well.

*In fact, there’s a lot more than goes on in this story – secondary characters I loved, conversations I adored, other situations I didn’t bring up, etc. Yet, I feel as if explaining them would take away from their charm, so I hope you will excuse my vague plot summary and check this book out for yourself. It is an incredible gut-wrenching read that will win you over with its subtle form of characterization and I highly recommend it. 

20 comments:

  1. Interesting book! Thanks for the review :)

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    1. Thanks Leah! I hope you give it a try!(:

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  2. Oh I can't wait to read this book, I've only ever read How to Save a Life, which I enjoyed, I've heard this is so gut wrenching too, so I'm glad you enjoyed this on the whole. Lovely review Keertana :)

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    1. Thanks Jasprit!(: I'm so glad you enjoyed How to Save a Life - I'm planning on reading that next - and I can't wait to see what you think of this one too! :D

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  3. I'm glad you reviewed this Keertana. I'm certain I will be able to appreciate this book now and can't wait to pick it up. Or anything by Sara Zarr for that matter, as I've yet to read anything by her! Fantastic review as always. :)

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    1. Thanks Sam!(: I can't wait to see what you make of this one! I really hope you enjoy it and am already looking forward to your review! ;)

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  4. I've heard a lot about this book but I still haven't gotten a chance to read it. This book sounds like a bit of a hot mess but I'm curious about it. Great review!

    World of Books

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    1. Thanks Annmarie! It is a bit of a hot mess really, but it's very well written and oh-so-good. I can't wait to see what you think of it if you get around to reading it!(:

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  5. How have I never heard of this book Keertana?! It sounds amazing, I'm actually already attached to Deanna just based on your review, and though she clearly makes many a mistake, I like that she grows throughout. Her dad sounds like a piece of work, but like you, I'm glad things aren't fixed with him overnight as much as I know I'd like them to be. I can always appreciate when an author makes things realistic rather than easy:)

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    1. I really hope you read this one soon, Jenny, as I'd love to see your thoughts on it! :) Deanna was such an easy character to sympathize and feel for and I loved how realistic the entire novel was, despite some of the truly despicable acts that went on in it. It was definitely a very powerful read!

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  6. this book is completely new to me, but it sounds interesting enough. Great review!!
    I'm a new gfc follower, btw. :)

    notjustnonsense.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Kah! I hope you wind up giving this one a try!(:

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  7. Another beautiful review, Keertana! Shamefully, I haven't read a Sara Zarr book despite my love for well-written contemporaries but I'm hoping to rectify that soon. I don't think I've heard of this one before! I think my jaw dropped a bit about the paragraph finding out Deanna was only thirteen and it's so true what you say about people wanting comfort. Her father sounds awful and I'm glad the journey felt realistic.

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    1. Thanks Elena!(: I really hope you read this one soon as I'd love to see what you make of it! The situations Deanna finds herself in are truly terrible, but I thought they were handled so realistically and well that I couldn't help but love it! :)

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  8. I know what you mean about character growth, but nice review and glad you liked it.

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    1. Thanks Shane! Yes, the character growth was just a little off the mark for my liking, but overall I really loved this novel! :)

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  9. Lovely review, honey. :) This is my next upcoming read and I'm so thrilled to begin it. I hope you read How to Save a Life at some point too; it was unbelievably good. :)

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    1. Thanks Leanne!(: Yes, I've heard a LOT about How to Save a Life, so that's definitely the next Sara Zarr novel I'll be checking out! I can't wait to see what you have to say about this one and I hope you enjoy it! :D

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  10. I'm really glad you enjoyed this, K! This is one of the best books I've ever read and I really connected with Deanna. You're about her dad and their relationship, it wouldn't have fixed itself overnight so that was very realistic

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one too, Mandee! I really connected with Deanna as well and I'm so glad her relationship with her father remained realistic and showed signs of slowly fixing itself. It was very well done! :)

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