Friday, October 22, 2010

The Wild Girls

I just read an awesome book. It would've probably been my favorite book if I'd read it when I was 12, and it might just be my new favorite book right now. I read it in bed all morning, and I laughed and cried and laughed and cried, often but not always at the same time.

About becoming a writer and being 12 and your parents not getting along...

Joan is 12 in 1972 when her dad gets a new job in San Francisco so her family (she, her mom and dad, and her older brother Mark) moves from Connecticut to Danville, "a little suburban town about a half hour's drive from San Francisco."

When she breaks a glass helping her mom unpack, her mom tells her to go explore, so she does, and she meets "the Queen of All the Foxes," a.k.a. Fox, a.k.a. Sarah, who right away takes her hunting for newts.

She spends all summer with Fox, and when school starts and she sees Fox (Sarah at school), "I almost didn't recognize her."

They are sort of friends at school, good friends outside of school, and they write a prize-winning story and take a creative writing class at Berkeley the next summer, taught by Verla Volante, who in their first class asks "a lot of really strange questions. Not like most teachers, who ask a lot of questions that they already know the answers to. Verla asked weird questions, and she said stuff like: You're the only one who knows the answer to this question. Questions like these don't have right or wrong answers. If you don't know the answer, make up the answer. Later on you can figure out if it's true."

Joan (later known, at least in the woods with Fox, as Newt) loves Verla's class of course, and likes the other "loose nuts" in the class. She learns to write stories that help her make sense of her world, and quote Verla's aphorisms liberally including "Anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And later on you can use it in some story."

This book is much more complex and much better than I'm making it sound. You should just read it.

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