Story of a Girl

Story of a Girl

4.1 271
by Sara Zarr

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When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother's best friend - Deanna Lambert's teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of "school slut," she longs to escape a life defined by her past.

With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our

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When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother's best friend - Deanna Lambert's teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of "school slut," she longs to escape a life defined by her past.

With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Zarr's involving yet somewhat anti-climactic debut opens with a bang as Deanna Lambert recalls the moment that caused everything in her life to change: "I was thirteen when my dad caught me with Tommy Webber in the back of Tommy's Buick." Following this incident with the then 17-year-old boy, Deanna is shunned by her father and labeled "the school slut" by her peers. In her small town, the tag sticks, and continues to define Deanna's life for the next three years. Now 16, she lands a summer job only to discover that Tommy works at the same place. But seeing him sparks flashbacks, and through them Zarr give readers insight into how Deanna was drawn to Tommy, and the complicated feelings the teen experienced ("I don't mean anything corny like I fell in love.... It was more a feeling like when I'd get picked first for volleyball"). The author credibly explores Deanna's confusion about how good it feels to be with Tommy and her thoughts that she should be feeling something else. The narrative is less credible when she erupts at her best (girl)friend, Lee—paving the way for Deanna to kiss her longtime best friend, Jason (who is also Lee's boyfriend)—and also when Deanna confronts Tommy after a makeout session. Although the loose ends are tied up at the end, readers may find Deanna's character somewhat contradictory. But Zarr convincingly creates a teen trapped by small-minded people in a small town. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Florence H. Munat
As an eighth grader, Deanna Lambert made a mistake: She allowed her older brother Darren's pothead friend Tommy to have sex with her several times in Tommy's car. She did not love Tommy, but his attention felt like the only good thing in her life. Their meetings ended when her father discovered them. Now sixteen, Deanna still experiences fallout from her past. Her classmates in Pacifica, California, have dubbed her the "school slut." Her once-beloved father will not talk to or look at her. And her working-class family seems on the verge of breakdown when Darren and his girlfriend have a baby and move into the Lamberts' basement. Keeping Deanna afloat is her unrealistic dream that she and Darren's little family will save money from their minimum-wage jobs and move out. She also has positive relationships with Jason, whom she has known since childhood, and Lee, a town newbie who becomes Jason's girlfriend. Although she loves them both, Deanna's jealousy leads to trouble. When she starts work at a pizza restaurant and finds Tommy employed there, her life seems impossibly complicated. Ultimately by taking mature responsibility for her actions, Deanna works through it all. This first-person narrative is unusually sensitive and perceptive. Zarr explores Deanna's emotional life convincingly, and her portrait of young parents working opposite shifts and living with parents to make ends meet is realistic. The skillful use of flashbacks explains how Deanna became involved with Tommy. Dialogue is contemporary and funny. One quibble is the overuse of franchise names. This highly recommended novel will find a niche with older, more mature readers because of frank references to sex and some x-ratedlanguage.
KLIATT - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Deanna Lambert is a girl with a past. Ever since she was caught by her father having sex with her brother's friend in the backseat of a car, her life has become a high school joke. The event not only haunts her but also defines who she is. Now that summer is here, Deanna is looking for a job that will give her enough money to help her brother and his wife and daughter to move out of a difficult home situation, taking her with them. The only job she can get is one working in a pizza parlor with Tommy, the high school boy from the backseat. Her brother Darren and his wife have a falling out and Deanna is caught in the middle. Deanna's friends Lee and Jason provide support and encouragement, but she finds herself uncomfortably in the middle of that relationship as well. In one weak moment she goes out with Tommy and almost becomes the girl in the high school joke. Instead she channels her frustrations, forgives Tommy and is finally able to put the past behind her. As the novel ends, Deanna is nervously preparing for the new school year. This is a gritty story of a girl trying to reclaim herself in a world that has already written her story for her. Her determination, however, provides an example of what it takes to survive. Her father's displeasure and distrust are palpable and the tension in Deanna's life threatens to break her, but she steps up, makes some tough decisions and starts to define who she really is.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Deanna is a high school sophomore and already she has a past. Her dad caught her having sex with Tommy Webster in the back of his old Buick when she was thirteen, and he hasn't been able to look her in the eye since. Tommy's bragged freely about his conquest, and Deanna's branded the school slut. Meanwhile Jason and Lee, her two best friends, start dating, and Deanna's brother and his girlfriend struggle to sort out their own relationship with each other and with the baby they hadn't planned on. Deanna's mistake haunts her every step, seeming to condemn her to a drab life with no escape in sight. Zarr's first person narrative is simple and heartfelt, and we are drawn into Deanna's world. Secondary characters are depicted with delicate care, and even Tommy as antagonist is shown to be vulnerable. It's easy to become trapped in the acute limitations of a first person voice, and Zarr handles it with realism and grace. The parents, who teeter on their own shared brink of personal failure, are particularly compelling, all the more so as we see them through Deanna's eyes. A Philip Booth poem is included in front matter. The protagonist's journal entries are scattered between chapters, adding depth and offering readers a few brief contemplative moments. In the end this is a story of forgiveness, and of young people overcoming obstacles to find their own paths and voices.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
When Deanna's father catches her having sex in a car when she is 13, her life is drastically changed. Two years later, he still can't look her in the eye, and though Tommy is the only boy she's been with, she is branded the school slut. Her entire family watches her as though she is likely to sleep with anyone she sees, and Tommy still smirks at and torments her when she sees him. Her two best friends have recently begun dating, and Deanna feels like an intruder. She tries to maintain a close relationship with her older brother, but Darren and his girlfriend are struggling as teenage parents. Deanna learns to protect herself by becoming outwardly tough, but feels her isolation acutely. Her only outlet is her journal in which she writes the story of an anonymous girl who has the same experiences and feelings that she does. Through this, readers see the potential that Deanna cannot identify in herself. This is a heartbreaking look at how a teenager can be defined by one mistake, and how it shapes her sense of self-worth. This is realistic fiction at its best. Zarr's storytelling is excellent; Deanna's reactions to the painful things said to her will resonate with any reader who has felt like an outsider. It is an emotionally charged story, with language appropriate to the intensity of the feelings. Story of a Girl is recommended for both teens and the adults who live and work with them.—Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MDCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Sophomore Deanna Lambert made just one mistake to turn herself into the "school slut." Back in eighth grade, Deanna's father caught her having sex with a high-school boy. Nothing has been the same since that painful night, and Deanna's extremely dysfunctional family is not much help. There are just two people who are willing to take the razzing of being the friends of "slutty Deanna," and she misses her loving dad who has turned into a man who can neither look her in the eye nor give her any affection. She continues to make mistakes when vain hopes of leaving her folks' house with her brother, his girlfriend and baby are squashed. Ultimately, she resolves her anger toward the boy who seduced her, realizing she is repeating patterns and wants to change. Zarr's story ends on a hopeful but realistic note with everyone taking baby steps toward something approaching normalcy. This involving, touching first novel will resonate with those who have made mistakes and those who have not. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Sara Zarr's first novel tells an engrossing story with exquisitely drawn characters. Story of a Girl is the rarest mix: It's both impossible to put down and the kind of book that stays with you long after you've finished reading it."
John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska"

This is a hell of a good book."
Chris Crutcher, author of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes"

Throws a sharp right hook at the assumptions people make about girls who have sex early."
E. Lockhart, author of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and The Boyfriend List"

A heartfelt, realistic novel about being defined by one moment, one choice, and then having to reinvent who you are....An evocative, thoughtful read from a debut author to watch."
Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Jingle Dancer and Indian Shoes

* "Realistic fiction at its best. Zarr's storytelling is excellent....An emotionally charged story...recommended for both teens and the adults who live and work with them."
School Library Journal (starred review)

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Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Sara Zarr was raised in San Francisco, California. She is the author of How to Save a Life, What We Lost, Sweethearts, and the National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl. She is also the coauthor of Roomies, with Tara Altebrando.

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