Deanna Lambert is sixteen years old, and she's still trying to outlive losing her virginity when she was thirteen. Straight up, she's known as the fast girl at Terra Nova High.
The only problem? She isn't.
She hasn't had sex since the night her dad caught her in the backseat of Tommy Webber's Buick. But because Tommy told, like teenage guys have done in locker rooms throughout the ages, she's still the girl no respectable boy would ever date… even though she's in love with the most respectable boy of all—her best friend Jason.
Deanna and her family live Pacifica, California, which is just half an hour from San Francisco but might as well be another world. Author Sara Zarr knows a lot about Pacifica—she was raised in San Francisco, even though she now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Most of the places she writes about in Story of a Girl, including Terra Nova High, are real, which means that if you fall in love with the book and want to make a pilgrimage to Northern California, you totally can.
Lots of people have fallen in love with Story of a Girl, including the American Library Association, which named it a 2008 Best Book for Young Adults. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award—not bad for a first novel, right? The National Book Award committee may not have gone and paid tribute at the Taco Bell on Pacifica State Beach, but it's safe to say they thought it was an important book.
And it is an important book. One of the basic facts of teenage life is that girls often mature faster than boys, which unfortunately leads to a lot of Deanna-and-Tommy situations: girl thinks it's true love, boy thinks it's just sex, boy brags, girl gets her reputation ruined, life goes on (except not really for the girl, who has to live with her ruined reputation for a long time). There are way too many Deannas out there, and you probably know one (or two, or three). Zarr writes believably about the humiliation of having untrue things said about you, having the whole school know your business, and feeling like you'll never live it down.
Even if you've never been in Deanna's shoes (or Tommy's backseat), you'll still relate to the authenticity of her voice. Reading her story is like sitting across from your best friend in the coffee shop, listening to her tell you how awful her life is. Which brings us to this: if nothing else, Deanna's life will probably make you feel a little better about your own.
Chances are decent that if you're not the school you-know-what, you know her, and you've watched her get teased. You also know the guy who likes to brag about his sexual exploits, and you've seen the double standard that exists for these two—boy gets high-fives, girl sits alone at lunch (or something along those lines). If you've ever been bullied, seen anyone get bullied, or been afraid to stand up for yourself or someone else, you'll relate to Deanna.
People think Deanna's done a lot more than she has because when she was thirteen she had sex with the first guy who paid attention to her. Though she's done pretty much nothing ever since (getting caught by your dad is a pretty major deterrent), her reputation—both at home and at school—is pretty much ruined by this fateful evening three years ago. And the thing about this is that—even if you haven't go as far as getting busy in a car—we can all relate to this on some level. It's hard to escape the teen years without acting recklessly at some point to try to fit in.
There are kids like Deanna everywhere. They're hopeless, and they think they'll never live down their reputation or get out of their small town, so they give up on even dreaming of a better life. If they come from a poor family, the odds are against them even more. They need all the friends and support they can get, and Story of a Girl will remind you why it's important to get to know someone instead of believing the rumors.
First Things First: The Author
And she's got a big ol' website, full of blogs and podcasts and things.
Second Things Second: Story of a Girl
Here's the page that's specifically about the novel. Not bad being nominated for a National Book Award the first time out, huh?
We Love it When Authors Have Podcasts
And Sara Zarr has one. It's called This Creative Life, and she interviews other authors.
There's Also the Readin' Kind
Want to read another author's interview with Zarr? YA novelist Cynthia Leitich Smith's got your hookup.
You Don't Have to be Brad Pitt to Get a Trailer (By Which We Mean the Video Kind)
Here's the teaser trailer Little Brown made for Story of a Girl and other books by Zarr.
Write Awesome YA, Go to Awesome Conferences
Here's Sara Zarr being a rock star the at American Library Association WriteOnCon.
Sara Zarr Explains it All to You
What's the difference between pacing in YA and adult novels? Sara's answer may surprise you.
Audiobook of a Girl
Would you rather use your ears than your eyes? Here's the audiobook version of Story of a Girl.
Sara Zarr Likes Heart-Shaped Cookies
So much so that she has one on the cover of her latest book, Sweethearts.
Sara Zarr Also Likes Hot Sauce
But probably not on her heart-shaped cookies.
And While We're on the Subject of Food…
Pacifica State Beach really does have the world's fanciest Taco Bell.