Book Review: Girl Walking Backwards

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.

Book Review: Lost It

Title: Lost It

Author: Kristen Tracy

Genre: YA Romance

Read: Jan 3, 2011

Summary: Forever 2007.


This is a very likable teen romance about an Idaho girl’s first real relationship and of course… how she lost her virginity. I read this in my continued meandering quest to find out just how edgy and racy YA can actually be. I hope someone points me to another answer, but I’m thinking… not very. If you know anything really edgy, please put it in a comment. Lost It is pretty reminiscent of Judy Blume‘s Forever (my review HERE), and it’s gone backwards in the sexual explicitness department big time. Really there’s barely any.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a good book, and it stands on its own. It’s just not racy. But I really did like the voice. Using the standard first person past you are immediately and tightly drawn into protagonist Tess’s head. She’s pretty funny too, and not your totally typical teen girl. There is a lot of interior monologue, but it doesn’t suffer from the “too much tell” problems that this often entails. Like, for example, the Indy book Switched (my review HERE) I read the previous day. With Lost It, I actually laughed a number of times aloud — or at least chuckled. Like all these books, the narrator is what drives the whole thing, and the book delivers 100% in that regard.

Many of the other characters are good. The best friend, the boyfriend, and the grandmother all felt unique and real. The parents less so. Tracy doesn’t have the effortless ability to make every character totally and completely believable like Judy Blume, but who does? Nevertheless, she gives it the good old college try and the results are very good.

But the tameness bothered me. In our era of hyper shock factor, it would be nice if an honest book like this was a bit more honest and open about its central topic. Sex. Forever certainly has the edge there, and it’s more than 35 years old. It’s also worth noting that the two books have almost the same cover. I guess publisher marketing departments all think alike. Observe to the right!

I don’t know what it is, but at the same time the internet has opened the door to vastly more sexual material than my 70s or 80s brain could have ever conceived, popular media has less and less. But more violence. Somehow this seems pretty twisted — at least the more violence less love thing.

Anyway, Lost It, is a good book. Refreshing actually because I didn’t have to force myself to finish it. It’s all character driven, and when well done that’s a very good thing.