|Little Brown Books|
for Young Readers
by Sara Zarr
One of the wisest women I have ever known used to say to me, “wherever you go, there you are.” And yet, who hasn’t felt like starting over in a new place might solve all of their problems at one time or another? Deanna is only 13 when she gets caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother’s best friend, and from that moment on she is a slut in the eyes of her classmates. Worse yet, her father can’t even look at her anymore because he is so ashamed of her. How long, and how far away from that backseat does Deanna have to get for people to see who she really is?
It isn’t difficult to have empathy for Deanna’s character. She speaks with a cynical voice that is wise beyond her years and angry, yet still belongs to a teenager. Even though Deanna is sexually experienced at an early age, she is still innocent in many ways. What Deanna really needs is the love of her father and not his harsh judgment of her past. She works relentlessly to restore her father’s love and respect, and yet she is continually punished, so much so that she begins to wonder if she really is as bad as what others (including her father) think she is. The setting also plays a huge role in the story contributing to the feeling of hopelessness and regret. Deanna’s family is relatively poor, and this is evident in the peeling paint, messy yard, and stained carpeting of their home. Her brother, sister-in-law and niece live in the basement, and every member of the family has a poorly paying, but demanding job. No one really has time to spend listening to Deanna, and even her beloved brother seems to be moving away from her with his own family. Through Deanna’s eyes the reader has an authentic experience of a lower-middle class American. They see how difficult it is for struggling adults to keep their own disappointments from bleeding into the hearts of their children. And better yet, they learn that the only way to change perception is to challenge it, to tell others who you are and who you intend to be, and usually that is done right where you are.