What can I say about the 1994 fictional chronicle of a girl named Andrea Marr in grunge-era Portland, Oregon? There's so much to Andrea's story that it would be hard to tell you everything about it (and the 1998 movie based on it is a bit of a mockery of the whole thing, not doing the very wide-eyed, honest teen tale justice). After ten years of creative writing classes, workshops, lectures and advice books, it's a book that does everything “wrong” that still feels so right for me. Blake Nelson spins the story in the first-person voice of Andrea (which is so authentically female that it's hard to believe a guy wrote it), with the details of her high school life tumbling out in what feels like a breathless rush (mostly because of all the run-on sentences).
I discovered Girl via a review in the gone-but-not-forgotten magazine Sassy, which often introduced me to unusual new literary charms in my adolescence (you may have heard me reference it before). To say I've re-read the book quite a few times is an understatement – at one point, I could quote portions of it and it rivaled Pam Conrad's Taking The Ferry Home in the number of times I'd visited its pages. And I've recommended it to many friends, with mixed results: one, for instance, was enamored with the young protagonist's use of the word “fuck” to differentiate between two kinds of sex (slightly T.M.I? Perhaps, but you're curious now aren't you?) while another loathed Nelson-as-Andrea's sometimes Valley Girl-esque stream-of-consciousness storytelling, unable to make it to the end.
But of course, this is about my own connection to the book – a tricky subject. I'm not entirely sure what it is about it that fuels my adoration for the novel. On the one hand, like I said, it does so much that some would consider “wrong”: it “tells” more than it “shows,” and it introduces scores of characters and yet only expands on a dozen or so. On the other hand, however, it's about (in as succinct a summary as one can manage) an introspective girl who rocks out to local bands, shops for funky vintage rags at thrift stores, has a lesbian best friend and eventually travels far from home for college. In other words, she's a lot like me in my twenties (sans the lesbian best friend – mine was a gay guy) and a little bit like that girl I always wished I could be. I couldn't help but love her – and the book – flaws and all.