The Year of Needy Girls

The Year of Needy Girls

by Patricia A. Smith


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Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, Lesbian Fiction!

"Recalls both Hellman's The Children's Hour and Lehane's Mystic River in a story about murder and false accusations."
Bay Area Reporter

"A tense story about a small town swept up in bigotry and paranoia after the brutal murder of a local boy sends the residents into a frenzied witch hunt...Smith's crisp prose and dedication to realistic moral ambiguity make for a provoking read."
Publishers Weekly

"Smith's first novel successfully builds tension and a sense of dread among the picture-perfect New England fall."
Library Journal XPress Reviews

"Smith shows us the power of fiction to fully describe the internal and external forces that set the scene for unfounded accusations...Smith deftly builds tension...Smith shows us both the damage that will be ongoing and the revelations and growth that can arise out of ugly times. This is something to remember for the times ahead."
Lambda Literary

"Smith conveys the impact of this prejudicial hostility on two young women who are struggling to make their way in an intolerant world with a tender and delicate understanding in this nuanced tale of identity and misperception, connection and alienation."
Booklist Online

"Well-written. The dynamics between the lesbian couple are quite compelling. Smith takes on several important issues, such as classism, racism, and bigotry."
The Gay and Lesbian Review

"Throughout the novel, Smith peels back layers from relationships. Weaving throughout the story like twin strands of a braid are secrets and the eventual harm brought about by their revelation—prejudices exposed and lies told by loved ones uncovered. From a landscape peopled with supportive neighbors, coworkers and lovers of all types, Smith erases the certainty underlying characters' beliefs and sets them tumbling into chaos. The Year of Needy Girls is an intelligent and captivating read that will spur readers to question their own truths."
VA Living Magazine

Included in BookRiot 's list of 9 Small Press Books to Read in January 2017!

"This well crafted novel stands out for a number of reasons—the nuanced descriptions of the characters' complex feelings, the realistic portrayal of how quickly a person's life and a community can fall into crisis, and the focus on two lesbians and the challenges they face."
World Wide Work

"A recommended novel that explores small town bigotry."
She Treads Softly

"A tale of persecution where it shouldn't have happened...There are many people you can't trust. And it's hard to tell."
Journey of a Bookseller

A young boy's murder unleashes chaos in the life of a schoolteacher and a small New England town.

Bradley, Massachusetts is in many ways a typical small New England town, but a river divides it in half—on one side, the East End: crowded triple-deckers, the Most Precious Blood parish, and a Brazilian immigrant community; and on the other, the West End: renovated Victorians, Brandywine Academy, and families with last names as venerable as the Mayflower.

Deirdre Murphy and her partner Sara Jane (SJ) Edmonds have just moved to their first house—and for the first time are open in their relationship—in the West End, where Deirdre teaches at Brandywine Academy. A dedicated teacher from a working-class background, she is well loved by her students. But the murder of ten-year-old Leo Rivera from the East End changes everything—for Deirdre and SJ, for the girls at Brandywine, and for all of Bradley. And when Deirdre is falsely accused of sexually molesting one of her students, the entire town erupts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617754876
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 739,249
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Patricia A. Smith 's nonfiction has appeared in several anthologies including One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories and One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium: LGBT Educators Speak Out About What's Gotten Better . . . and What Hasn't. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Salon, Broad Street, Prime Number , and Gris-Gris. The Year of Needy Girls is her first novel. A native New Englander, Smith now lives in Chester, Virginia, with her partner.

Read an Excerpt

The Year of Needy Girls

By Patricia A. Smith

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2017 Patricia A. Smith
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61775-487-6



The air, electric, buzzes and hums. It's the end of August. One of those humid, still Saturdays, the city empty, or holding its breath.

East of the river, near the abandoned textile mill and the old shoe warehouse, Leo Rivera rides his bicycle, a ten-speed hand-me-down from his brothers. He pays no mind to the heat. Leo stands and pumps past a vacant lot, one of several in his neighborhood, littered with broken glass that sparkles in the sun. Tufts of stiff, burnt grass poke though cracks in the concrete, and red plastic milk crates sit overturned and empty in the lot, waiting for the men who will gather there later to drink beer and listen to the game. Through the opened window of a shingled brown triple-decker, he hears Portuguese, the same radio station his mother listens to, the same one that will broadcast the soccer match this afternoon, Brazil versus Chile.

Leo likes soccer but unlike his brothers, he prefers baseball. Best of all, he likes riding his bike. He pedals hard past the chain-link fence of his school, Most Precious Blood Elementary — MPB they all call it — and the hot tarred blacktop where he will be having recess again in a few short days. He whizzes past Most Precious Blood Church and the white sign that advertises Wednesday-night Bingo in the parish hall next door. His grandmother is a regular. She wins, but not big, not enough to buy him a new bike, which he wants more than anything, which he covets. He doesn't covet anyone else's bike, just a Trek he has seen advertised in a magazine, but he knows that wanting things and praying for them is bad. Greed, the MPB Sisters say, is a sin. Not a mortal one, like killing, but a venial one, a misdemeanor. Leo tries to avoid wanting the bike outright because he doesn't like to disappoint the Sisters at MPB, but worst of all, he doesn't like disappointing his mother.

His mother tells him that he is her pride and joy. The One Born in America. Does he know how lucky he is to be living in a country where his father can get decent work and he and his brothers can go to good schools? He must thank God for America, his mother tells him. Every night. He must pray and thank God for sending them all to this good country.

The American boy doesn't know any other country. He hears the stories and he thinks he is the luckiest of all not to know anything but America, this city, this neighborhood where he goes to school and plays baseball, this land of shiny bicycles. At night, when he is saying his prayers, always thanking God for America, Leo slips and tries to make deals about how he will help his mother and how he will do all his homework if he can only get that Trek for his birthday. His birthday isn't for weeks, but he is thinking about it now, riding past the library, past the empty Little League field with the backstop halfway torn down, past the mechanic shop where Mickey, his next-door neighbor, works part-time. Mickey is almost a friend. He's much older, but he helps Leo with his bike, lubes the chain for him or replaces it outright like he did at the beginning of summer. Leo is thinking of his birthday and how much he would like that Trek to ride to school and show his friends. He won't even mind the helmet his mother makes him wear. He won't complain ever about the helmet, he promises God.

So when Leo coasts down the sidewalk toward his grandmother's house, a white triple-decker surrounded by a chain-link fence, and Mickey is waiting, sitting in the passenger seat of a car alongside the curb, engine still running, Leo is only thinking of his Trek, seeing himself on the first day of school, riding to MPB on the shiny bike. He isn't thinking how strange it is that Mickey is here waiting for him. No, he is thinking only of his birthday and the way it will be when his mother leads him to the dining room.

Mickey calls, "Leo!" out the car window and tells him to hop in. In the driver's seat, a man Leo doesn't recognize flicks his cigarette butt onto the sidewalk, where it lands next to Leo's sneaker. Mickey says he's found the bike. He will buy it if it's the one Leo wants. Mickey can't remember if it's a Trek or not — he thinks it is. It'll just take a second — he's seen the bike in a shop downtown and it isn't too expensive. If they go right now, if Leo will just get in the car and ... it'll just take a minute, his grandmother won't even know he's gone — she doesn't even know he's here yet — then Mickey'll know whether or not it's the bike to buy for Leo's birthday. They'll bring him right back, they promise.

So his grandmother won't worry, they put his Schwinn in the trunk. "If she sees the bike lying in the yard, we don't want her wondering where you are, do we?" Mickey says.

Leo agrees and climbs in the backseat.

Mickey's friend, the driver, smiles in the rearview mirror. "You like bikes, huh?"

This is too good to be true. This is maybe some crazy dream.


Excerpted from The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith. Copyright © 2017 Patricia A. Smith. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Year of Needy Girls 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That was really good!
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
The Year of Needy Girls wasn't quite what I expected. From the publisher's description, I was anticipating a mystery/thriller centered on the murder of 10-year-0ld Leo Rivera and the accusations of molestation against teacher Deirdre Murphy. Instead, these events are fairly tangential to the book's true subject matter: the lesbian relationship between Deirdre and her partner Sara Jane (S.J.) Edmonds. This mismatch between expectation and reality caused me to appreciate The Year of Needy Girls less than might have otherwise been the case; the narrative was slower-paced, and I became impatient because I kept wanting to get to the action. The gist of the plot goes something like this. Leo is sexually molested before his murder; therefore, in the town's eyes, the murderer must be gay. Deirdre is a lesbian who is caught apparently kissing one of her students; this serves to confirm that homosexuals sexually prey upon children. As the mother of the allegedly molested teenager tells her daughter, "'Homosexuals are known predators. ... They have to convert children. I know it sounds silly, but that's what they do.'" (No, Mrs. Worthington, this doesn't sound silly; it sounds ridiculously ignorant for a wealthy resident of liberal Massachusetts in 2016.) Therefore, not only must Deirdre be fired, but the town seriously considers a referendum prohibiting homosexuals from working in (and attending?) schools: "'Homosexuals are not safe for our children,'" says Leo's father. I don't doubt that the LGBTQ community suffers from bias. I don't doubt that, at least in some communities, lesbian partners face pressures on their relationships which would be foreign to most heterosexual couples (although, as The Year of Needy Girls makes clear, no relationship, regardless of sexual orientation, is immune from jealousy or work demands). What beggars belief is that anyone in this day and age, particularly in the Northeast, would openly espouse the level of homophobia Patricia Smith attributes to Mrs. Worthington, Mr. Rivera, and the other residents of Bradley, Massachusetts. When Smith focuses on Deirdre and S.J. as a couple, The Year of Needy Girls rings true. The framing narrative she has chosen, however, leaves much to be desired. This review was based on a free ARC provided by the publisher.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith is a recommended novel that explores small town bigotry. Residents of Bradley, a small Massachusetts town, are all on edge when 10 year old Leo Rivera, a kid living on the wrong side of town, is kidnapped. When his body is later found, the paranoia of the whole town seems to escalate, looking for the killer and/or someone to blame for the crime. Deirdre Murphy, a high school French teach at a private girls school, is as concerned as the rest of the town over young Leo's murder, but she continues to find innovative ways to help her students learn French while supporting them. Her partner/girlfriend SJ Edmonds, is a local librarian. Their personal relationship is known to their employers and shouldn't be a problem - that is until the actions of Anna Worthington, a student of Deirdre's. Anna forge's her mother's signature on a permission slip for a class field trip. Then Anna decides to act on her crush and kisses Deirdre, right when Anna's mother is watching. Deirdre is immediately suspended from her teaching job while the incident is under investigation. At the same time, SJ is thinking of ending their relationship. When Mickey Gilberto, an auto mechanic, is named as Leo's killer, SJ is shocked and doesn't believe it. She had been tutoring Mickey, helping him learn to read. The two events become tied together by the town, resulting in a citywide outbreak of homophobia. Deirdre and SJ are both reeling and unable to support each other. Smith does a good job presenting how the two separate incidents became enmeshed with each other due to public actions, which, in turn, fueled the outrage as the two cases are investigated. But, there is no real suspense since we know what happened in both cases. It is more a character study and an exploration of the fear Deirdre and SJ are feeling and their mistakes and insecurities. They are the needy girls more than the high school students Deirdre taught. While well written, this story has been told before in various forms and, perhaps, more successfully in other books. Bigotry can occur in a small town or a city over any one of a large number of issues. Teachers and other professionals, in a misguided attempt to be supportive and help, can neglect to set up boundaries between their students and themselves. Both of these women should have learned the importance of this years before this incident. In other words, why the heck did Deirdre think it was a good idea or acceptable to touch a high school student, if even to rub their back/head to try and be supportive? This applies to any teacher and student. Use your words; talk to them with an acceptable amount of personal space between you. (As a former educator, her personal choices lost me then and there.) Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of Akashic Books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(Hi, guys. I've decided to make some se<_>x stories! XD I hope you guys enjoy this. Leave requests. Thank you! Cx) <p>Dustin and Sally were on a nice, romantic date. Talking about life and family and their interests. It was a great time until Sally's boyfriend brought something up that they never thought about. <p>"What do you think know....?" Dustin slowly asked, looking straight at her. <br>Sally didn't know what he was talking about at first, but then it hit her. "Oh! That! I, uh...I never thought about it, but let's not go into that. We are only 16. You're lucky that both of our parents let us do this tonight." <br>Dustin nodded, "Alright. You're right. But-" <br>Sally caught him off. "No more talking about it." <p>After their dinner at their favorite place, they went to Dustin's to watch a movie. His parents were out and his brother was at a Football game. As they watched the horror movie, something scary popped up and Sally clung onto Dustin's torso. He held her and he loved it. Her br<_>easts were squished against him. The feeling was great. He wanted her but they have to wait. It's the right time. Sally released him and currled up into a ball, falling asleep. Once sge was asleep, he made his move. He couldn't wait any longer. <p>Dustin turned off the t.v. and glanced over at Sally. Sge was beautiful. He had to touch her. He went for one of her bre<_>asts. He gave it a squeeze. It felt nice and she didn't wake up. She was a deep sleeper. Dustin went for her other one. He squeezed it. It felt amazing. Finally he lifted her shirt up and looked inside of it, no br<_>a, giant ti<_>ts. He didn't hold back. He reached up and squeezed it then he started rubbing and playing with it. Her nip<_>ples got harder and harder in his fn gers. Her body was enjoying it. He knew it. <br>Dustin moved his body slowly over hers and buried his head under her shirt. He moved up until he was over her huge bo<_>obs. He stuck his tongue out and licked one, her body stirred and he froze. But then Sally relaxed, clearly still sleeping. He sighed quietly in relief and went back to it. He