A New Yorker grapples with mixed loyalties.
Readers met Virginia Shreves in The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (2003). One semester on, the 16-year-old, who attends an expensive private school, has dyed her hair purple and green and wears brightly-colored bras. She’s trying to reconcile her list of rules entitled “How To Make Sure Skinny Girls Aren’t the Only Ones Who Have Boyfriends”—a personal campaign—with no longer having feelings for her boyfriend, Froggy. Then Annie Mills, a young woman Virginia’s 20-year-old brother raped last fall, unexpectedly presses charges. Byron, the brother she once idolized, now faces prison. Coincidentally, Sebastian, the dreamy blond boy Virginia meets at a bagel shop, turns out to be Annie’s 17-year-old brother. Despite Annie’s adamant discomfort with Virginia and Sebastian’s connection, their relationship ultimately brings solace to Annie’s mother. Annie’s feelings on the matter are sacrificed, making the otherwise-delicious romance harder to root for. Virginia’s challenges are her family—cold, controlling, and image-obsessed—and her own body image, which she triumphantly levels up, though eschewing the term “fat” in favor of “curvaceous chick.” Her secondary romance is Manhattan, detailed and buzzing, though whiter than is realistic; Chinatown and its inhabitants are exoticized and presented as foreign. The Mills and Shreves families are white.
Well-written humor and fizzy romance wrapped in an uneasy plot. (Fiction. 14-16)