YA Book Review: Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti

I’ve been enjoying a variety of new books lately covering everything from children’s picture books to teen and YA to Catholic apologetics. I spent most of August checking out new releases in the YA genre. Some were hits, others were misses. But overall, summer YA releases were strong in my opinion. I loved Parachutes by Kelly Yang. It’s Ms. Yang’s debut YA novel, and I only hope she writes more. On the other hand, My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong fell way short for me. I couldn’t connect with the main character or get into the story. It actually ended up being the rare DNF (did not finish) for me.

Kait's Bookshelf Girl Unframed CoverFortunately, I finished the month strong with Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti. This was my first read from Caletti, but I’m excited to see that she has many more books available. Girl, Unframed was a typical yet unique YA novel. All the elements were there – teens, first loves, relationships, drama. But the setting and the dynamic of the parent/ child relationship is different from most, which created an intriguing background for the story.

Girl, Unframed is about a teen girl named Sydney. The summer she turns 16, Sydney visits her movie star mother, Lila, in California. The visit is uncomfortable and awkward. Sydney doesn’t see Lila very often and their relationship isn’t your typical mother/ daughter relationship. Lila is very preoccupied with herself, what makes her happy in the moment, and keeping her career alive. To top it off, Lila’s new boyfriend is always around and quickly becomes attached to and protective of Sydney in both a strange and kinda creepy way.

The book opens with Sydney waiting for the “it” to happen. Sydney doesn’t quite know what the “it” is – feeling grown up? falling in love? – but she’s desperate to finally experience something. This desire to grow up and experience life is what the book is about. Sydney and Lila’s relationship is an interesting part of the story. There is also a little bit of a teenage love story woven in and of course some BFF drama. All the essentials of a good YA read.

The overall message of the book is what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world. At one point, Sydney encounters a flasher (not a spoiler – this is just one minor scene in the whole book). After becoming upset, she’s told by Lila’s boyfriend not to let “that stuff” bother her. Of course he could say that – he doesn’t have to worry about “that stuff.” It was so sad yet realistic to read Sydney’s reaction after she was flashed by a strange man. She worried there was something about her that had somehow invited his behavior. Was there something about her that made her look weak or like she wanted that from him? These are the very thoughts women often ask themselves when they’ve been victimized in some way. Was it my fault? Am I somehow responsible? Like I said, sad yet realistic.

The whole book was a good commentary on what women go through every day – being stared at, groped, flashed, etc. I appreciated Sydney’s story and that someone addressed what women have to deal with on a daily basis.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the writing style. I honestly almost gave up early on because the writing was so frustrating. It’s told in first person but then jumps to second person. Sydney will be narrating her story then throw in something like, “but you already know that.” This drove me crazy. But I pressed on and I’m glad I did because, overall, this was a really intriguing book with a powerful message about how it feels to be a woman living in a man’s world.

I would recommend this book to high school aged readers and above. Content/ trigger warning: there are some scenes involving intense kissing, sex, and violence so please be aware of that before picking up this book for yourself or giving it to someone else.

Girl, Unframed is available now!

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