Taking a hard look at the societal conventions that constrain teenage girls, William C. Morris Award finalist Carrie Mesrobian tells one girl’s story with bracing honesty and refreshing authenticity. By her senior year of high school, Rianne has exhausted all the fun there is to have in small town Wereford, Minnesota. Volleyball season is winding down, the parties all feel tired, and now that she’s in a serious relationship with reformed player Luke Pinsky, her wild streak has ended. Not that she ever did anything more than the guys her age did...but she knows what everyone thinks of her. Including her parents. Divorced but now inexplicably living together again, Rianne wonders why they’re so quick to point out every bad choice she’s making when they can’t even act like adults. With an uncomfortable home life and her once-solid group of friends now dissolving, the reasons for sticking around after high school are few. So why is Rianne in lockstep when it comes to figuring out her future? That’s not the only question Rianne can’t answer. Lately she’s been wondering why, when she has a perfect-on-paper boyfriend, she wants anything but. Or how it is that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian, understands her better than anyone who’s known her all her life? And why has Rianne gotten stuck with an “easy girl” reputation for doing the same exact things guys do without any judgment? Carrie Mesrobian, acclaimed author of Sex & Violence and Cut Both Ways, sets fire to the unfair stereotypes and contradictions that persist even in the twenty-first century.
Just a GirlFeatured
The book is marketed in such a way that I expected it to make a political statement on gender issues, specifically in relation to the stigma around women who explore their sexuality. However, I am not sure the story really goes there as suggested in the synopsis. In fact, it is mentioned on multiple occasions that Rianne has sex with guys for their benefit, not her own. In actuality, Rianne is not a strong girl unashamed of her sexuality, but rather an insecure one who engages in these behaviors to feel temporarily desired.
Mesrobian uses third person throughout the novel, which seems an odd choice to me as the story is so personal and intimate. I would have preferred the book narrated in first person by Rianne, so that we as an audience could have a deeper look and understanding of her decisions. I also think this story may have been better suited to college-aged students and sold on the new adult market as the subject matter is quite mature. With that being said, I appreciate JUST A GIRL for portraying the pressures and expectations of young girls in a candid and honest way.