Girl Walking Backwards: A Novel

( 13 )


Skye wants what all teenagers want—to survive high school. She lives in Southern California, though, which is making that difficult. Her mother has fallen victim to the pseudo-New Age culture and insists on dragging her to consciousness-raising workshops and hypnotists. As if this weren't difficult enough, Skye falls in love with Jessica, a troubled gothic punk girl who cuts herself regularly with sharp objects. When she finds her boyfriend having sex with Jessica in a bathroom stall at a rave, her romantic ...

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Girl Walking Backwards: A Novel

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Skye wants what all teenagers want—to survive high school. She lives in Southern California, though, which is making that difficult. Her mother has fallen victim to the pseudo-New Age culture and insists on dragging her to consciousness-raising workshops and hypnotists. As if this weren't difficult enough, Skye falls in love with Jessica, a troubled gothic punk girl who cuts herself regularly with sharp objects. When she finds her boyfriend having sex with Jessica in a bathroom stall at a rave, her romantic illusions collapse and she has to face the fact that she's been running away from her mother's insanity. Right when things look their worst though, Skye is helped by Mol, a pagan who becomes her true friend, and Lorri, a graceful volelyball player with whom she finds real love. From them she learns how to feel authentic emotions in a culture of poseurs and New Age charlatans. In this anti-coming-of-age novel, where growing up is irrelevant, this is the best gift of all.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bett Williams makes you laugh and then makes you feel guilty for laughing. Girl Walking Backwards is brilliant Southern gothic merged with punk rock and moved West. An honest, tender, and nasty rendering of self-mutilation and New Age fascism, this book establishes Williams as one of the most original novelists around." —Barry Graham, author of The Book of Man and Before

"Girl Walking Backwards is about style and vulnerability and trying to grow up in a world without adults. Author Bett Williams is smart, charming, writes about characters engagingly, and knows how to drive a sentence." —Blanche McCrary Boyd, author of Terminal Velocity, The Revolution of Little Girls, and The Redneck Way of Knowledge

"Authentic in both pain and humor, Girl Walking Backwards is the tale of a girl lost, whose plight is as touchable as it is believable." —Steven Levenkron, author of The Best Little Girl in the World, The Luckiest Girl in the World and Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self Mutilation

Out Magazine
"Let's stop kidding ourselves. California is a god-awful scary place where the golden glow of sex and drugs hides the money-soaked carcass of emotional vampirism. If you don't believe it, this agile and devastating portrait of a young California dyke will convince you. Skye is a senior in high school. Her parents fed her LSD as a child, her boyfriend watches her jerk off and tries to help her get a girlfriend, and she and the girl she wants to kiss dress dead birds in Barbie clothes. But the outrageous and the hilarious are actually the foundations of Skye's exquisite sanity. It's her mother's new age homophobia that wears her down. Dragged from one encounter group to another, threatened with hypnotism and rebirthing classes, Skye and her scortching virgin sexuality are under emotional and psychic siege. By the time this strangely funny novel has shown us Skye's ghastly movie mogul dad in action down in L.A., then takes us back up to Santa Barbara in time for her mother to rocket into queer-hating orbit, you'll never want to go to California again. But don't despair; Williams is a good fairy after all, blessing her work and its achingly gay heroine with lovely youthful sex, as redemptive as it gets."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Williams confronts coming-of-age angst in this dry, often angry debut about a 16-year-old lesbian who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., with her skittish mother, a spaced-out New Age divorcee on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Despite her parents' rocky breakup, Skye's world has managed to hang together, if precariously. She volunteers to work for Planned Parenthood because "it was the only organization that really dealt with teenagers' right to privacy." Soon she becomes infatuated with Jessica, a sullen, dark-haired girl she meets in a neighborhood cyber-cafe. The one thing Skye's mother is not receptive to is her daughter's lesbianism, and clashes are inevitable when Jessica introduces Skye to a world of raves, drugs and casual sexual encounters. When Jessica has a breakdown of her own, Skye realizes that avoiding reality has its price and begins to come to terms with the key actors in her life: her mother, who wants to "heal" her but ends up in the hospital herself; her well-intentioned but absent father, who is an independent filmmaker in L.A.; her "boyfriend" Riley; Jessica's friend Mol, an exuberant, self-titled Pagan; and Lorri, a volleyball teammate who turns out to be more than just another straitlaced jock. Williams writes in clipped, unemotional prose, underscoring the theme that innocence is hard to find but that naivete is rampant (especially among adults). Somehow in this chaotic and self-indulgent California terrain, her wounded young protagonist emerges as the most reasonable voice of all. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Sixteen-year-old Skye is in the process of creating herself: smart and pretty, she has a boyfriend but dreams of finding a girlfriend. She's trying to figure out if she wants to be one of the jocks, nerds or goths or just friends with them. Both of Skye's parents are irresponsible. Her mother, for example, keeps trying to drag her into a world of cultish New Age types, threatening to withhold support for Skye's college education. Skye's efforts to get politically/socially involved necessitate avoiding adults who would prey on young people. The frightening vulnerability of being on the threshold of adulthood is convincingly re-created, and teens might identify with Skye's efforts to forge a family of choice to replace her unreliable family of origin. However, the explicit, mainly heterosexual sex scenes and a story line involving satanic abuse put this at most at the upper reaches (ages 17 and up) of the YA category; moreover, the side of teenage life shown here, with kids experimenting with drugs and sex, is one many adults disapprove of and deny in their own pasts. A promising if controversial beginning leads to an abrupt, wholly unsatisfactory ending just as Skye hits a crisis. Regretfully not recommended.--Ina Rimpau, Newark P.L., NJ
Kirkus Reviews
A tedious tribute to the agony of being 16 and subject to sexual frustration, backstabbing friends, disinterested teachers, and mother-daughter screaming matches. The character who guides readers through this dreary landscape is notable most of all for her loneliness. Ignored by a hip Hollywood dad and nagged at by her dippy, domineering, New Age mom, precocious Skye becomes increasingly alienated from bland suburbia, southern California style, as she embarks on a quest to find a lesbian soulmate. An all-consuming crush on Jessica, whose brief backwards stroll gives the book its curious title, quickly escalates after one public kiss at a sweaty high school party. (Naturally, the popular girls are disgusted, the jocks intrigued.) Skye and Jessicaþs relationship veers sharply from the breathless best friendsþ stage into crisis, though, when Jessicaþs self-inflicted cuts become deeper and more frequent. When she ends up in the hospital, followed there in a blink by Skyeþs pill-popping mother, Skye joins the ranks of semihomeless teenagers whose nomadic, unattached lives she admires. Two friends invite her to a cybercafe and the occasional rave, but otherwise Skye is completely on her own. Her isolation is more than a little distressing, and Williams beats her readers over the head with it: The only person Skye ever connects with is Jessica, who is eventually secreted away to a long-term psychiatric hospital without, it seems, a backward glance. Anyoneþs lingering nostalgia for high school years will disappear after a few pages of Skyeþs circuitous, self-conscious conversations with her friends in this novel of adolescent insecurity and confusion, adebut effort that nevertheless remains strangely unsatisfyingþin part because the strings on these puppets are so obviously traceable to an adult hand.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312194567
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/1998
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 496,850
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Bett Williams was raised in California. She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is her first novel.

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First Chapter

Runaways are romantic. The girls are waiflike with dyed ratty hair and baggy pants. They usually own a stray dog of the mutt variety and drag it along by a rope, plopping down in front of storefronts to beg for money from passersby. They're a mess. It is likely they'll charm you, make you think you're their best friend and savior only to end up using you and then they'll disappear. That's why they're romantic. They're there and then they're gone. Romance is always about people appearing in a flash out of nothing or people who are there and then suddenly are not. A magic trick.

It was a fantasy I had for a long time. I find the girl behind the Dumpster, half dead. I pull her into my arms and try to love the life back into her. She starts crying. She lets her pain come out all over me and I take it into my heart. A heroic thing, I guess, my runaway fantasy. Of course, fantasies have no smell so there is no body odor or stale cigarette aroma and in my imagination the girls never call me "poseur" and ask for ten dollars like in real life. They're always pretty, tough on the edges, and mysterious.

A therapist once told me the runaway girl was really me, that I wanted to save myself. Whatever. So where do we go from there? If everything you dream is just you, where is the world in all of it?

If you wanted, you could do community service instead of Study Hall. It was written in small letters at the bottom of the weekly school newsletter that nobody read. They didn't really want us to know, more paperwork for them. I only saw it because I read everything -- cereal boxes, random flyers found on sidewalks, any kind of magazine. Compulsive reading is a symptom of having no social life.

Other than hanging out with my boyfriend, my life had no real events, nothing that could be organized into any kind of plot. Despite schoolwork and volleyball, it seemed like I had more free time than anybody else I knew, time that loomed ominously, void of phone calls and over-the-top teen activities like sliding down hills on blocks of ice and stealing mascara from Wal-Mart. At sixteen, I was already looking through the classified ads for volunteer jobs. I considered working at a soup kitchen but my basic laziness prevented me from stopping by. Any kind of community service would have to involve some selfish interest on my part.

The runaway shelter was only a few blocks away from my house. The stucco building with the brown gravel roof had an air of mystery and heartbreak. I was always walking by it slowly, trying to see inside the dark one-way windows. No one ever came in or out. I always wanted to go inside but was too afraid, fearing it might be some sleazy back-door operation run by Scientologists. The newsletter gave me an excuse to drop in under the guise that I was looking for a volunteer job to get school credit.

Thinking about working there, my runaway fantasies took on a whole other dimension--holding a girl down on a cot while she convulsed and gagged from heroin withdrawal, her hand in mine as the memories of incestuous torment came flooding in on her again, stopping fights, spaghetti dinners followed by chores, the inevitable bonding. Moments of tenderness.

I skipped volleyball and went down to the shelter after school. I walked up the stairs into the building, nauseous with nerves. Inside, it looked like the place where my mom picked up Meals on Wheels during her brief interlude with volunteer work. The carpet was worn through and smelled like dog pee. The fresh paint and posters promoting safe sex didn't cover up the water stains on the walls. I went down the hallway and knocked on a hollow-core door. A man wearing an African mud-cloth jacket greeted me. He looked about thirty, with long blond curly hair.

"How are you doing today?" he asked. He looked familiar, like he might have been one of Mom's friends from her personal-growth workshops.

"Fine," I said.

He didn't say anything else. He looked at me with such an unflinching stare, all I could do was stare back at him like a frightened rabbit. I told him I was interested in helping teens with drug problems and kids who lived in abusive families. I was curious about their volunteer program and explained that I had some experience in counseling. His stare made me feel like I was required by him to speak from the very depths of my soul, like he could catch me in a lie if I wasn't careful. He gave me an application to fill out. I took it to the waiting room and answered the questions in pencil using a copy of Psychology Today magazine to support the page. Address--age--hobbies. I went back inside his office and handed it to him.

"Sit down," he said, looking at me from head to foot and back up again, taking interior notes. "Why do you want to work with runaways?"

I said something about wanting to help people, knowing right off it was the wrong answer. His godlike persona was making me nervous.

"What year were you born?"

"Nineteen eighty-two."

I forgot that I had written down my age on the application as being eighteen instead of my real age, two years younger. My face flushed red. He looked down at the paper and was quiet for a long time. He took a deep breath.

"Why did you lie about your age?" he asked with a pained expression.

I was more embarrassed than I should have been. Lying has never been something that comes easy for me. My whole body hurt. He kept staring. I averted his gaze by looking up at the posters of Tibetan monks on his wall.

"I don't know. I wanted the job. I wasn't sure if it was okay to be only sixteen."

"Why did you feel the need to lie?"

"I don't know."

"Are you okay? You seem afraid."

"I'm a little nervous, I guess."

"Maybe you came here because you needed something?"

I started crying. I don't know why. It seemed like anything could open the floodgates. All it took was--the counselor stare. I got paranoid that he was going to call my mother and report that I was disturbed, that I came into the runaway shelter seeming to need some help. The number was on the application.

"Can I have my resume? I want to check something."


"Can I just have it?"

His cheeks had a pink glow, like a German. He radiated health.

"I need to go."

"I'd like to invite you to stay and talk. It seems like a lot is going on for you right now. What's your home life like?"

"I really need to go."

"But it seems like you--"

"You don't know me."

I stood and took my application from his desk and walked out of the office, tears streaming down my face. My walk turned into a run. My lungs were bursting but I didn't stop until I got to a park where no one could find me. I wasn't sure if he had the right to arrest me or what. It was a runaway shelter. I'd acted like a psycho.

I ended up volunteering for Planned Parenthood because it was the only organization that really dealt with teenagers' right to privacy. They fight hard to make sure kids have access to abortions without having to get permission from their parents. I know firsthand what it's like have a parent find out about something they're not ready to know. It's a disaster. Parents need to be protected from the truth of their children's lives.

Planned Parenthood was suspiciously omitted from the list of community-service organizations registered with the high school. When I asked the secretary how I could get it signed up, I was sent to the Dean. The Dean asked me why I wanted to work for them. He, too, had counselor eyes, but this time I was on guard. I toughened up and said: "Teenagers dealing with those kinds of issues sometimes trust someone their own age better." Mention Planned Parenthood and any school official will break out in a sweat imagining hoards of pro-lifers picketing the school lawn, only to be pelted by condom-throwing teenagers.

The Dean, acting calm and cool, sent me to Mrs. Stanley, the Special Ed teacher who also took on the job of coordinating the community-service program. I walked all the way across campus to a metal building surrounded by dry weeds, annoyed by the fact that getting anything done in an institution means making pilgrimages to a series of ugly buildings and completing menial tasks with people who wish you weren't there.

Mrs. Stanley was sitting at her desk, wearing a skirt and jacket with bright floral patterns. Her hair was dyed midnight black, presumably in an effort to be punk. In fact, everything about Mrs. Stanley was about effort. When she spoke, she broke into a sweat. She had gigantic Popeye forearms which looked like they were pulling weight even when they were hanging limp on top of her desk. She was a church lady without a church. She wanted to do good.

"Why do you want to do that?" she said loudly when I presented her with my idea. She took a sip of coffee and fumbled through a stack of papers in a seeming panic. I told her about my interests in peer counseling in a mousy, barely audible voice. The air around her was singed with a cold coffee smell that contributed to an atmosphere of tension, like she could self-destruct at any moment.

"It's going to take some effort. Write me a proposal and tell me exactly what you are going to be doing, where exactly your efforts are going to be focused. Get it signed by the head of the organization, drop a copy by the Dean's office and one to me. Each copy needs to be signed by both parents."

It took me a solid week of office-hopping during Study Hall to get my proposal put through. It turned out that Planned Parenthood didn't even have a peer counseling program, only a peer education program run by an enthusiastic man named Don. Three people signed up and we had to meet in the evening every Tuesday and Thursday at his apartment on Johnson Street.

The night of the first training I arrived fifteen minutes early. I knocked and a tall stocky man with brown hair answered the door, wet from the shower. Music was blaring and something was cooking on the stove. I thought I was at the wrong house.

"You must be Skye," the man said. I blushed, not knowing why.

"Yes. Is this the seminar?"

"I don't do seminars," he grinned. "This is the peer counseling program if that's what you're looking for. I'm Don. Come on in and I'll get you a Coke. Make yourself at home. I was just making dinner. Are you hungry?"

"No. Thanks anyway."

I walked inside reluctantly, fully aware that I had made the wrong decision and was going ahead with it anyway. I tried to relax on his black leather couch while he brought me a Coke and went into his bathroom to take care of further hygiene issues. The smell of hair gel and deodorant wafted down the hall. I stared at his exercise equipment and extensive record collection while he talked to me from the bathroom.

"Have you ever rock-climbed?" he asked.

"No. I don't like heights."

"Rock-climbing is awesome. I should take the group out sometime. It's a great way to build trust."

One thing that wasn't building trust was the fact that I was alone in an apartment with a strange middle-aged man whose living room was filled with graphs of the human orgasm and diagrams of penises and vaginas propped up on easels. Above the fireplace was a signed photo of Glenn Frey from the Eagles--Hey Don, what a summer, love Glenn. The apartment smelled like athletic clothes and pot. He closed the bathroom door and I heard the deep, almost melodic sound of his peeing. My crotch contracted, like when I see blood. He came back out to the kitchen and wiped down the Formica counters with a sponge.

Don was a very casual guy. He wore shorts, a T-shirt, and the kind of sandals you can only get in serious sporting-goods stores. His legs, arms, and neck were covered in a thick mat of black hair. Unlike most adults, he didn't try to pretend like he was my therapist or a big brother. In fact, he acted like we were on a date, asking me what I wanted to drink and offering up trivial bits of information to discuss. I couldn't tell if he was simply trying to treat me like an adult or if he was just acting like some adult version of a teenager. Whatever his position, it made me nervous. After a half an hour went by, I was beginning to think I'd made some treacherous mistake when two others arrived, knocking on the door.

Gabe was a frail and wan neo-hippie boy who smelled like baby food and had hair as thin and white as an angel's. Tracy was a brash, straight-A student type who began talking immediately about her older boyfriends. She dumped the one that was forty and was now dating a mere twenty-eight-year-old. I got the sense she might have dated Don. They had this way of ignoring each other as if they'd been there, done that. I wondered what kind of losers' club I'd signed up for.

We spent half the evening talking about music and movies. Don became animated when he described action sequences. He was like a little boy. He wanted to be our friend. Badly.

After stuffing ourselves with tortilla chips, salsa, and Coke, and after listening to a particularly worshipped Jimmy Page guitar solo on his stereo, he began the course. First item -- the human orgasm.

"You already know most of the stuff, the sperm-and-egg stuff; everybody knows that stuff, we don't want to insult people's intelligence here. We'll tell them about sex, real sex. We'll tell them about diseases, how you get them, how you prevent them. But first we have to talk about what sex is."

He had this slack-jawed California way of wrapping his mouth around a word that made it impossible to take him seriously. He pronounced the word sex with two syllables. Se-ax.

Don was an expert in graphs, charts, and xeroxed copies. Over the course of the evening, it didn't take long for my stack of xeroxed diagrams of genitalia to grow thick. Genitals in different states of arousal, diseased genitals, genitals stuck together, genitals with devices stuck in them and over them. That's what Don called them anyway -- genitals. Gabe, Tracy, and I held siege and told him that the word made us sick to our stomach and we would all be using the terms willie and beaver from now on and he would just have to get used to it.

"Sex is nothing to be ashamed of. We like doing it but we don't like talking about it," Don said, absentmindedly snapping a condom between his fingers.

When Don talked about sex, which was obviously his favorite thing to talk about, his attitude reeked of sportiness. I found myself staring at his thick thighs swelling out from underneath his shorts, thighs that had memories of football, tennis, golf, rock-climbing, and se-ax. It all mixed together forming some singular essence in his casual Californian thighs. I imagined his thighs smelled like Astroturf; his nuts, fresh tennis balls. He referred to testicles as balls and I realized I hated that. I don't want men to call them testicles, either. I don't want them to call them anything. I want men to ignore their balls, leave them unnamed, therefore invisible till absolutely necessary. I learned more about balls that night than I ever wanted to know, that and obscure Led Zeppelin trivia. (The band lived in Alistair Crowley's castle.) Men's balls move and contract involuntarily even in a nonaroused state. That settled it for me, an intimate relationship with a penis was out of the question. Speaking of penises, we spent much of the training session watching Don's. We could see the shape of the tip bulging under his red satin shorts. Gabe swore he saw the outline of a large vein. When the session ended we were all sure that Don was some kind of pervert. Gabe wasn't sure who Don was going to hit on first, him or me. Although he seemed like a pretty straight guy, Gabe was wary of athletic types after a bad experience with a junior-high softball coach, also a fan of the Eagles. We stood out in the driveway and said a vow that we would look out for each other and report any hairy-hand episodes that might occur.

After only four training sessions, Don told us that we were ready to be peer educators. We made it through five classic Led Zeppelin albums and the six stages of human orgasm. What else was there to know? We had the xeroxes. We had bodies. Don wasn't all that into complex details anyway; he seemed to think that talking about sex was its own reward, that it had some magical power. Talking about sex healed the world.

"It's no big deal. You know it all. Right?"

We nodded, clueless.

I was chosen to go first. I would give a presentation to the fifth-period sophomore Health class. In one hour, we were to cover sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, contraception, and Don's favorite -- human sexual response.

Don met me in the hallway before class started. Even though he was weighed down with cumbersome charts and graphs, he managed to give me an elated hug.

"Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be. Can't you do the banana thing?"

"I want you to do it. Don't be embarrassed."

If I got caught masturbating in the school bathroom by my whole English class I'm sure Don would tell me not to be embarrassed. He flashed a boyish smile. I smiled back out of habit.

"You're very pretty."

"Thanks." I looked down at the floor. I hated that he used that word--"pretty." I knew I was pretty. He could have said I was painfully beautiful. He could have said I had a great nose. "Pretty" meant he wanted to have sex with me. That's all.

"Would you like to catch a basketball game sometime? Maybe this weekend?"

"No thanks," I said, like a robot.

I walked ahead to the classroom while he followed behind, clunking. I was so angry I could hardly breathe. I knew he was a pedophile, we all knew it. It wasn't like he was trying to hide it. I just didn't know when he was going to make his first move. I was always on guard, waiting for him to ask me if I needed a ride home. We all watched him carefully, wondering who he would hit on first, Gabe or me. I felt stupid for even putting myself in such a position. I thought pedophiles had more style. They were supposed to win you over with a great irresistible charm or something. They were supposed to turn you on to Mozart and classic literature. They were supposed to buy you things. I was so insulted.

Don started off the class with a lecture on HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. It was fifth period and everyone was tired, the lunchtime marijuana had worn off. This was the class to chill in, write love letters, draw, stare at newly arrived body hair. It wasn't a smart group. Smart kids knew how to get out of Health by getting their parents to write a letter. Most kids took it because it was an easy A. Unlike the people in the nerdy Gifted-and-Talented courses I always had to take, these kids were attractive, unsubtle, and sexy. Lip liner and good haircuts, adolescent boys without bad skin. Kids who are fucking. They look better. My stomach started to gurgle; I shouldn't have had three cups of coffee. Don began setting up the charts and graphs. The students might as well have been watching TV, the way they stared at him blankly, too tired and bored to even get a good laugh out of it. Don introduced me.

"This is Skye, she's in our peer education program." His hand rested on my shoulder, bothering me more than it should have. "She's going to talk to you about birth control."

Suddenly the room became electric. People sat up in their seats. The guys especially were very interested in what I was up to. I stood with a ripe banana dangling from my left hand, for a moment unable to speak.

"Um, hi. People tell you you should wear a condom but they never say how to put one on. So that's what I'm going to do." I was thinking that if someone doesn't have the dexterity and intelligence to put a condom on correctly, what in the hell are they doing having sex?

"Make sure not to use condoms that have been lying around for a long time. Don't use a condom that's been in the sun." I opened the package and took out the rubber item. "Hold it in your hand like this and put it over the tip of the penis," I said, holding the plastic circle on the tip of the banana.

"Girls, you can do this for him, too," Don said, a little too gleefully.

"Pull down and make sure it rolls down evenly as far as it will go. And that's it." I held up the smothered banana for all to see.

A few guys were elbowing each other in the back of the room. At least they had come alive.

"Do you have a question back there?" Don asked. The guys shook their heads no and sobered up.

I showed them diaphragms and sponges. I demonstrated how to use spermicidal gel. For the sake of history, I showed them an evil IUD from the days of old. Everyone finally indulged in healthy laughter when I brought out a female condom and attempted to demonstrate its use in my hollow fist. The only one in the room with a straight face was Don, who looked at me with serious concern for the plight of women and their contraceptive devices. If teenagers don't use condoms because it's not cool, our little demonstration didn't help any.

"Any questions?"

"What are you going to do with the banana?"

"Eat it after class."

Two boys enjoyed a cheap snicker. I didn't really mind.

"What kind of contraceptive do you use?" a leering jock asked. It was a question intended to provoke a titillating answer. Don looked at me, practically drooling for my reply.

"Nothing," I said. Don's half-smile drooped. "I'm not heterosexual."

Two girls in the back busted up laughing and the others looked down at their tables nervously. I saw Don out of the corner of my eye. He was utterly confused, a deep line that I had never seen before formed between his eyebrows. I had tripped Don up and most of the guys in the room could sense this. They had a kind of respect for me.

"Don, don't you want to answer some questions about your personal life?" I said.

"I don't want to interrupt you," he replied, flustered.

"You go right ahead. Educate us."

He moved slightly and knocked down a graph of the healthy orgasm that was balanced precariously on the chalk tray. He set it back up then took his place in the center of the room.

"Any more questions?"

No one said anything. They slouched in their seats, chewing on pencil erasers, staring at their own shoes. I slipped out the door just as Don was attempting to make small talk with the students, something about rock concerts and large crowds, a summer he spent touring with the Eagles. He heard me go and turned to look at me with this hurt/angry look in his eyes. For a moment I was afraid of him, like he might hunt me down and catch me in a dark alley on my way to a movie.

Girl Walking Backwards. Copyright (c) 1998 by Bett Williams. Published by St. Martin's Press, Inc. New York, NY

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2006


    I have read the majority of YA lesbian fiction available and even among my favorites is only predictability and cliché. This one, on the other hand truly surprised me. The story of Skye is brutally honest and at times even disturbing. I found that Skye was incredibly relatable perhaps not such much with the tales of drugs and partying but with her mentality and dealings with her increasingly psychotic and emotionally needy mother. This is probably the most daring YA book I¿ve read and as someone who is quite a ways out of the young adult age bracket it is quite refreshing. The writer does not shy away or assume that her readers are young, immature, or sheltered. One of my favorite things about this book (for those that are looking at it for its lesbian content) is that the issue of sexuality is almost a non-issue. This isn¿t a coming out story. No big predictable epiphany of gayness. Skye is just Skye, she doesn¿t apologize for it (and the only person who tries to make her is her mother). The book does not focus on sexuality it focuses on the humanity of a girl who happens to like other girls. If you are easily offended this book probably is not for you but if you enjoy dark, honest and relatable YA lit that doesn¿t treat the readers like children, than I think it is worth giving a try. I read the book in one night and am now going to pass it along to as many of my friends as I can!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2003

    Awesome Book!

    This book is awesome. Words can't describe it. I totally felt for Skye. Even for Jessica. I've had hopeless crushes on other girls before. I know how it feels. I also know how it feels to be depressed and to cut yourself, like Jessica. I'm glad Skye found what she wanted and deserved in the end. Although, I do think there could have been more in the ending, I would have liked to have seen what happened with Skye and Lorri. Or to Jessica or Skye's mom. An excellent read though!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2002


    The book was one of the deepest things I have ever read. There was just it. Another reviewer said that they believed the book to be disgusting and meaningless, but the meaningless just paints a bigger picture overall. The book is amazing, pure and simple, although I would rate it in the range of PG13 and up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2001

    Excellent read!!

    This book was great. As a teenager going through the same things as Skye, it's easy to relate to her and feel empathetic towards her and her situations. Beautifully written. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2001

    One of my favorite books of all time!

    I thought that this book was really beautifully written. I loved the characters and really got swept away by Skye who is just one of the most dynamic wonderful characters ever written in my view. The language that Ms. Williams uses in this book is absolutely phenominal. It is my hope that she writes a new book soon! I'm desperate for a good read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2000

    Very emotional!

    I loved this book! I never read a lesbian novel like this before, i totally related too this .. I felt as if i was Skye. I would recommended this book to anyone !

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2000

    An absolute must read!!

    This book hit me in so many different ways, but most importantly, it changed my life. I want to be Skye! She helped me understand my own struggles. Bett Williams, hurry up and write another amazing book for me, please!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2000


    GWB was an awesome book and i have no idea why people hate it. it will definity make you uncomfortable and maybe that is the best part. it hits you with a wall of reality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2000

    Girl Walking Backwards: A Novel

    A wonderful and interesting story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2000


    a friend recommended this book to me.. i found it disgusting and was depressing and didn't have any substance to's not a good book for teens to read..maybe in an adult's view it would be better

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2000

    Wonderfully fresh

    Bett Williams may be a new published fiction writer; but, her work is amazing. This is a must read book. I couldn't put it down. Told with such realistic needs, wants, and desires, it is a story that all will identify with!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 1999

    Girl Walking Backwards: A Novel

    this book is great for all thosse people who like realisim

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews

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