Title: Girl Walking Backwards
Author: Bett Williams
Genre: Lesbian cuming of age YA
Read: Jan 10-15, 2011
Summary: Less than Zero meets Rubyfruit Jungle.
This book is rather brilliant, but isn’t for everybody. In my review of Lost It (CLICK HERE), I had inquired if anyone knew any YA that was racy, and this was recommended. It’s written in a breezy first-person past with a kind of stream-of-consciousness lightweight quality that made me have to look to make sure it wasn’t persent tense. The prose is very very good — fitting the material perfectly.
Skye is a fifteen-year-old growing up in Santa Barbara, and she’s basically raising herself. Her mother is a self-help seminar junkie and all-around new age psychotic, her dad (divorced) lives in LA where he directs films and has sex with pretty production assistants. Neither seem to think about her at all. She has a boy friend, sort of, but wants a girlfriend. She drinks and does drugs, but she isn’t a bad girl.
Somehow this character rang very true for me, and the voice is intensely personal and likable. Even the hare-brained situations seem very real, and like Less than Zero the substance abuse and self destructive behavior believable. The voice effortlessly shifts with the state of mind — often altered — and does a first class job conveying that. For some, this might be a hard book to read, particularly if one were right-wing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bret Easton Ellis‘s above mentioned masterpiece feels like watching a train wreck. While Girl Walking Backwards doesn’t have the terrifying “all rashed and looks dry and I can see that it’s been shaved” moment, and is ultimately transcendant.
Finally, his is a book that is very candid about sexuality.
Not only do we have various incidents of masturbation, near sex, and actual sex, but they aren’t even the focus. This isn’t gratuitous, it’s just frank. This isn’t about a girl becoming a lesbian, or coming out. It’s about a girl trying to find her footing in a world without foundations.