Book Pairing of the Week: The Girls

I felt so cool checking The Girls by Emma Cline out of the library. For once in my life, I’m hip on literary trends! I mean, for goodness sake, I still haven’t read The Da Vinci Code. And I probably never will. Back in high school, one of my teachers held a book club in class, and while all the other students were discussing their feelings on Freedom and The Help, I had never even heard of these titles. These are also books I have never read and probably never will.

But now I’m hip to what the kids are reading, and it feels good. I swiped The Girls off of the New Fiction shelf after circling it for a few minutes, debating on whether I have the persona to pull off checking it out. I took it up to the desk and swelled with hip pride. I am in the know. I am in it.

I finished it in two days. As I read, I was in no way anticipating using it for the Book Pairing of the Week this week. I figured that, since I was starting A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess right after, I would use that. But then there was a problem. Namely, I decided that I did not care for A Clockwork Orange for reasons that I think are quite justified. The first thirty pages are so violent that I was completely desensitized and did not care. Plus, Burgess smacked me over the head with heavy-handed symbolism TWICE. It was absurd. And it has not aged well since the 1960s. It’s very difficult for me to imagine this future, particularly with all the references to typewriters and landline phones. I kept waiting for the violence to become meaningful, and then I gave up. Most critiques are about the slang, but that was not the problem for me. The problem was completely purposeless violence. So no orange juice and whiskey/rum this week.

Since I’m now using The Girls unexpectedly, I cannot offer a recipe per se, or even anything specific. I say just sit down with some cheap frozen pizza and cheap beer in a can (like, halfway decent canned beer. Have some self-respect and don’t sip a Miller High Life while reading a book) and dig in. The novel itself is not only a beautifully written account of cult life, which everyone is saying, but also an intricate and unique exploration of what it means to grow up a girl in America. All of the main character’s anxieties about her appearance, her flirtations, and her disgust with men’s attitudes were so familiar to me, but no one had ever presented them as Cline does. The pressures that she details feel almost too real, and to me that was the main purpose of The Girls; the cult is just a setting for an exploration of one girlhood. As I said, I finished it in two days. So I liked it.

Now maybe I’ll go back and read The Help. But I probably won’t.

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