Sometimes I love a book so much that I don’t know where to start. I just want to throw it at peoples’ heads. (In a friendly, I AM STRONGLY ENCOURAGING YOU TO READ THIS way.)
Simmone Howell’s Girl Defective is about almost-16-year-old Skylark Martin, who lives above her father’s record shop. Her younger brother, Gully (yes, short for Seagull) is an aspiring detective who wears a pig-snout mask at all times; her father is a functional alcoholic who is anti-customer service and refuses to go digital, bottom line be damned; her mother ran away to Japan to be a performance artist years ago. Her only real friend, Nancy, is a few years older—sophisticated, dramatic, impetuous and beautiful—and Sky doesn’t know if she is in love with her or wants to be her. Sky isn’t sure who she is, who she wants to be or what her place is in the world.
As Sky puts it in the prologue, Girl Defective is “the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything. And it’s about life and death and grief and romance. All the good stuff.” That’s a pretty gutsy statement for someone to make about her own story, but Sky (through Howell) delivers the goods. Since finishing it, I’ve been clutching my ARC to my chest, counting the minutes until I can buy a copy of the hardcover.
Read it if you like:
Melina Marchetta’s books, especially The Piper’s Son. Yes, they’re both Australian authors, but that isn’t the only similarity. They’re also both authors who create fully immersive experiences: I start reading, and my own world falls away. I hear the characters’ voices; I see what they see; I feel what they feel. The secondary characters are just as real as the primaries; I can imagine reading an entire book about any one of them; I’m never at all ready to say goodbye at the end. The Piper’s Son, in addition to being AMAZINGLY GOOD, is also very much about music, grief and friendship.
High Fidelity, either the book or the movie. High Fidelity is a coming-of-age story about a guy in his 30s, and Girl Defective is a coming-of-age story about a girl in her teens, but both are set in record stores, both feature a wide range of offbeat, colorful characters, and both celebrate the power of music and the passion of music geeks. Based purely on my love for the song Wishing Well, which figures in heavily into Sky’s story and which I currently have playing on a loop, I want to go back and look up some of the other music in the book that was new to me.
Mermaids. You’ve seen this one, right? Cher, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci and Bob Hoskins? It’s another coming-of-age story about a girl in a single-parent household who’s got a quirky, super-bright younger sibling. In both stories, the protagonist does a lot of parenting; in both stories, the protagonist starts out unmoored and unsure of who she is; in both stories, the parent expects a great deal of maturity from the protagonist while also being terrified that she’s growing up; in both stories, the parent also does a lot of growing up, too.
Nutshell: In case it didn’t come through clearly enough, I AM IN LOVE.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.