The cat’s been hearing great things about Sara Zarr’s recent novel The Lucy Variations. Because I usually like to read books chronologically, I ordered both The Lucy Variations and Story of a Girl. And man, if Story of a Girl is anything to go by, The Lucy Variations is going to be such a great book! Because I loved Story of a Girl a lot, a lot, a lot! This is a “quick” read (seems almost deceptively easy), but it’s one of the most powerful little novels I’ve read in a while, and one that I will remember for a long time.
It’s about an uncomfortable topic, for sure: a 13-year-old (Deanna) caught in a car of a senior, both with their pants down, by her father… only to be called the school slut forever after. If this were the only thing Story of a Girl were about, it would already be hard to take in, but Zarr throws in a main character who – despite not wanting to be defined by her past – never really becomes an entirely lovable character either (and there’s a thing or two to be said about writing unlikable characters, right?). Deanna is 16 now, and ever since that event she’s wanted to escape her past and the stamp she was given. That didn’t quite work out for her, though. At school she’s still that girl and her dad hasn’t even so much as looked at her since that evening.
Oh man, this book is such a punch in the face. I really really loved it! Deanna made a mistake when she was still just a kid… 13 she was, and messed up, and yes, taken advantage of… and of course she wasn’t responsible , but she sure as hell thinks she was. And now, 3 years later, she’s in love with the (only) friend who stood by her since then, but who happens to have a girlfriend who happens to be Deanna’s only other friend… Things get ugly and complicated, and Deanna doesn’t know how to respond to it all, and she acts the ways she acts, and… but it’s so incredibly honest and real that it’s hard to see fault in the way Deanna acts now, to me. It’s not that I feel sorry for her, it’s that I get why she is the way she is.
Compassion, selfishness, redemption, loyalty, truth. It’s about all of these things and more. If I love The Lucy Variations half as much as I love this book, it’s going to be one hell of a book!