The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith
Fourteen is like rotten candy,
fourteen is the joke no one gets.
When you're fourteen,
you look good only once a week
and it's never on the day of the dance.
When you're fourteen,
you have a mouthful of metal
that no one wants to taste.
Fourteen is going to bed at night
and wishing you could wake up with a new face
or a new dad or better yet,
a new life
that doesn't look anything
like this one.
Kirsten started out as a poet, became a screenwriter, and on the strength of her poems sold the book that became TGOG. She's as cool as she sounds; at ALA, I was at a Little, Brown dinner and Kirsten was one of the authors. She read from her book and it was amazing.
The Plot: Penny Morrow is 14 and just wants a new life. Part of it is being 14; but part may also be because her own mother set a pattern of escape, leaving when Penny was 4. TGOG covers the next three years of Penny's life as she struggles with mastering the geography of life.
The Good: This is a serious book but it also is funny. Penny is the understudy in the school play and when her big moment comes -- they end up cancelling the play. When she gets her first kiss -- she faints.
But it's also serious, as she tries to figure out who she is, what she wants, and whether to stay or go. Penny looks to her older sister for guidance, but her sister is busy, so Penny watches, trying to pick up cues about what it means to have a boy fall in love with you. Penny also falls for the boy; and whether it's because she loves him, is competing with her sister, or just following the steps her sister left is unclear.
I loved how much time is covered in this book -- three years. Because it's poetry, there are no unnecessary details, yet Penny and her friends and family are communicated so that you recognize them. Yes, I know that boy; went to school with a girl like that.
Edited to add: I forgot to say how much I liked the individual titles of the poems. They are sideways, on the top left hand side of the poem. If you read them, they give a bit of extra info; for example, the first poem has Penny looking at her town from a boat in the bay, dreaming of escape. The title is Pop. 9,762; which appears to illustrate just how small a town it is. Later on, it has additional meaning. Because the titles are to the side, a reader can ignore them and go straight thru the book, concentrating on the text. It's up to them.
Kirsten links: interview with MovieMaker; Young Adult Books Central interview.
Some other lines from the book that I loved:
Denise's sobs were the sound of a prom dress
being taken off in a parking lot --
slit and satiny and torn.
All I know is
at this moment I feel like
I can do anything I want
and be anyone I want
and go anywhere on the globe
and call it home.
And finally, the return of the Poetry Friday roundup. Looks like it's summer vacation for many in the kidlitosphere, with travel, ALA, and vacation.
Blog From The Windowsill and a review of Once Upon A Tomb
Book Buds and Rejection Letter Haiku
Bookshelves of Doom and the best mosquito poem ever
Jen Robinson and a poem from the Railway Children (another book I've never read)
MotherReader and Got To Dance
Scholar's Blog and Three Poems (it's hard enough to think of one some days!)
Please email me or leave a comment if you're not on the list.
Edited to add: Here in the Bonny Glen with Rilke
Susan Taylor Brown highlights Rod McKuen
Little Willow and Flowers
A Fuse #8 Production remembers it's Poetry Friday
Edited to celebrate Canada with Farm School