Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Girls are Weird by Pamela Ribon

My first version of this entry didn't have any sort of description of the plot of the book, it just started straight out with what is now the 2nd paragraph. But since I realize it's dumb to assume that the 7 followers who aren't Abby already know the plot, here's the summary from Amazon: "When Anna Koval decides to creatively kill time at her library job in Austin by teaching herself HTML and posting partially fabricated stories about her life on the Internet, she hardly imagines anyone besides her friend Dale is going to read them. He's been bugging her to start writing again since her breakup with Ian over a year ago. And so what if the "Anna K" persona in Anna's online journal has a fabulous boyfriend named Ian? It's not like the real Ian will ever find out about it. Almost instantly Anna K starts getting e-mail from adoring fans that read her daily postings religiously. One devotee, Tess, seems intent on becoming Anna K's real-life best friend and another, a male admirer who goes by the name of "Ldobler," sounds like he'd want to date Anna K if she didn't already have a boyfriend. Meanwhile, the real Anna can't help but wonder if her newfound fans like her or the alter ego she's created. It's only a matter of time before fact and fiction collide and force Anna to decide not only who she wants to be with, but who she wants to be."

I first read Why Girls are Weird when I was 19. Nineteen is a weird age. You're out of high school, so you feel like you should be all grown up. You think of yourself that way. But really, you're still a teenager. Judging by the passages I had underlined my first time reading it, I was most definitely a teenager, in every sense of the word. I'm pretty sure this is not the first time I've reread Girls, because I remembered some of the passages too clearly for this to be only the second time I've read it. But for the intents and purposes of this review, we're going to go ahead and pretend that I'm rereading it for the first time in 6 years. It feels that way, at least.

I bought this book the first summer I worked at my favorite summer camp. Something you must understand about camps is that they are almost entirely staffed by young people, late teens to mid-twenties. Hormones, sunshine, close quarters... you see where I'm going with this. I had my fair share of unrequited crushes, which really colored my first reading of this book, and when looking at the passages I underlined, it shows. Ribon wrote that Anna K was feeling left out of love while all her friends are getting married, and I underlined it. I laughed at myself when I saw that underline this time through because I'm pretty sure I only had one friend who got married by the time we were nineteen, so it's not like I was being left behind in anything. I was just being dramatic. And immediately after laughing at 19 year old me, I was overcome with mortification. Not only had I underlined passages that don't actually pertain to my life in any way, but I underlined them IN PEN, and I have LOANED THIS BOOK OUT. I'm... I'm so embarrassed. But to those of you who read this book and saw my underlines and wondered what the hell I was on about: I was nineteen, and being a teenager is weird.

So how did I react to the book now, now that I'm really a grown up (mostly), in a healthy romantic relationship? I wasn't as affected by the romance plotline. It was still interesting as it ever was, and I had actually forgotten a lot of the details of Anna and Ian's relationship. And I think with the added perspective of actually having been in real relationships, the actions of the characters make much more sense. But the biggest difference of all: This time, I was much, much more affected by the stories of Anna and her dying father. Three months ago I lost my beloved grandfather, and I would come across parts in the book that would make me want to shout to those around me "This! This is how I feel!" There is a part not too long after she finds out her dad is really dying where she says she wishes she could go back to when "things were simpler, [...] when being a daughter had nothing to do with watching someone slip silently away. I wanted to go back to when a father was someone big and strong, an invincible man who never let anything get in his way." Yeah, I know how that feels. I loved the part where she wishes she could wear a sign that says "I'M IN MOURNING" so people don't give her strange looks when she's crying in front of frozen foods. Maybe I should make a sign like that, because I'm going to have to brave the Fathers Day section at Target next week to buy my dad a card. All those cards for Grandpas...

Mourning is weird. Even though it was sad, reading about Anna's mourning was cathartic. I don't remember crying during the gynecologist scene the first time I read this book, but this time I was sobbing. Anna has to go to a new doctor for the first time, and the doctor has to take a medical history. For the first time she has to say, out loud "My father died of heart disease," and she breaks down. I haven't had to say it yet, but eventually I will have to do some sort of medical history or something, and I will have to say it. Out loud. "My grandpa died of lung cancer." It's weird just to type it.

I don't know what my favorite single line was the first time I read Why Girls are Weird, but I know now. When Dr. Sanji tells her: "It's sad when our daddies die. Makes us one less person inside." :'(

And I have to say, Tiny Wooden Hand is still freaking hilarious. Also, if you want to turn this post into a drinking game (and really, why wouldn't you?), drink every time you read the word "weird."