Story of a Girl -- Sara Zarr

I don't usually put much stock in author blurbs, but there are some I can't ignore -- and when a whole bunch of them recommend the same book, I definitely take notice.  These are just a few of the authors who are quoted on the back cover of Story of a Girl:  E. Lockhart, Chris Crutcher, John Green, Andrew Auseon. 

Story of a GirlI mean, come on.  That was enough to make me pick it up.  And now, after reading it, Sara Zarr is most definitely on my list of Authors to Watch.

They never tell you this part in sex ed, how to talk about what you did and why you did it and what you thought about it, before, during, and after.

Deanna Lambert's life changed when she was thirteen years old and her father caught her with Tommy Webber -- her older brother's supposed friend -- in the back of a Buick.  Thanks to Tommy, the story circulated fast and far.

Three years have passed, and Deanna's father has yet to look her in the eye.  They hardly even speak.  Remember the scene in Dirty Dancing where Baby confronts Jerry Orbach about letting her down?  Here, Deanna remembers having the same epiphany, minus the confrontation:

That's what I figured out that day while he yelled at me.  That as much as I'd let him down, he'd let me down, too, and he was the one who should have known better.  He was the dad.  He was my dad.

Communication is not a Lambert family strength.  Her mother hovers but doesn't say anything of substance, and her brother, Darren, is living in the basement with his girlfriend and their infant daughter. 

Deanna hasn't been involved with anyone since Tommy -- she's well aware that their time together could hardly be described as 'dating', let alone romantic -- but she's still known as the school slut.  She's caught in a sort-of love triangle with her two best friends, though the friends are happily dating and are unaware of their parts in said triangle*.

She gets a summer job at a crappy pizzeria in the hopes of saving enough money to move into an apartment with Darren and his family (though she has yet to mention her plan) and discovers that she'll be working alongside Tommy Webber.

Extremely impressive first novel.  Even the minor characters are three dimensional, real people.  That's a rare thing.  And despite strong themes of forgiveness and redemption and a storyline that deals with the consequences of sex, the book never feels preachy.  That's an even rarer thing.  It's honest and true-to-life complex, yet straightforward and frank and hard to put down.  Recommended especially to fans of Ellen Wittlinger, but really, it's a safe pick for any teen** who enjoys realistic fiction.

*This is along the same lines as a Secret Fight -- you know, when you're in a fight with someone and they don't know about it?

**Assuming that they're okay with a little grit, of course.