Here’s your opportunity to win a copy of Kirsten Krauth’s just_a_girl. All you need to do is come up with a 25 word (or less) piece (fact or fiction) which includes the words ‘just a girl’ for your chance to win.
Check out my review and, if the book appeals, post your entry into the comments below. If it is easier for you, send your entry via email to ‘kt at karenleethompson dot com’ (in the usual format) and I will enter it. Only first names will be posted online. Get your entries in by Wednesday 12th March 2014. The winner will be announced soon after and can provide mailing address (Australian only). How easy is that?!
Layla is so much more than just_a_girl. The pivotal character in Kirsten Krauth’s debut novel is sassy and outrageous, tough and soft. At once courageous and timid; worldly and naïve. And I came to care about her deeply. I cared about her mother Margot too.
But let’s talk about the men for a moment.
Layla’s casual boyfriend is quite the piece of work:
Davo says you can never trust anything that bleeds once a month but doesn’t die. He tells this to his mates and they honk like donkeys. (73)
He proves himself to be as gutless as he is crass.
Layla’s dad – despite being benign – is a little too fond of his boutique beer and red wine to notice the impact of his words upon Layla.
There’s a predator extraordinaire who is charismatic as he is determined.
And then there is Tadashi who is not really in Layla’s world. He merely orbits and, when they do meet, there is little impact. At first, I questioned the inclusion of this lonely man with his battered suitcase and his love of ritual. I found him interesting but wondered at his place here – unconnected and insulated. Should he be in this story at all? Didn’t he warrant a life in his own novel? But, as his layers were peeled back and as his companion and lover Mika was revealed, I understood the subtle depth of Krauth’s symbolism. Mika is most unusual but she is still just_a_girl in an incongruous way.
Now, to the girls…
Layla’s mother, Margot, is – in her own way – just_a_girl. She is an emotionally challenged, needy woman whose maternal instincts are just below the surface, itching her skin, but still slightly beyond her grasp. Her struggle with depression oozes from her internal monologue:
…and I wake up one day and I can’t keep up, there’s no way I can get out of bed, my body is listless and my brain tries to argue with it but there is no response and I remember wanting to become Sleeping Beauty… (121)
Layla’s granny too is, in some part, just_a_girl, with her youthful stories about trains and the war on ‘permanent loop’ (89).
Even Tadashi’s lover is – at least in his eyes – just_a_girl with her ‘skin the smooth colour of pine nuts’ (50); with her freshness and faithfulness. ‘The thing about Mika was, she was durable.’ (157)
But it is Layla who steals the show.
Krauth has resisted any temptation to pepper the pages with too many LOLs or email banter. There’s minimal text speak, a mere smattering of hellos and likes. We get just enough facebook and online action to provide the impact for the mysterious ‘guy formally known as youami33’ (1) and to show just how close to the edge Layla teeters. Krauth nails the random scatter-gun teenage voice perfectly, using bullet points and decapitated sentences to give a unique expression to the main protagonist. Reviewing for The Australian, Jo Case notes that Layla’s voice is ‘written in a lolling teenage dialect, characterised by broken, staccato sentences and a string of verbal tics, such as “f . . kadoodle” and “starvin marvin”. The effect is sometimes awkward but authentically adolescent.’ Here’s my rundown on Layla:
- Hysterically funny. When Layla’s mother gives a less-than enthusiastic reaction to the earrings Layla stole for her Christmas present: ‘I’m tempted to knock her out with the Good News Bible. Before reclaiming the earrings as my own. Born-agains are just so stingy.’ (10)
- Perceptive. Referring to Christmas: ‘Mum saves up all her darkness for this special day’ (9). Questioning her own motivation: ‘Am I like Long Island Lolita? Do I really just want to get caught? (207)
- Typical. ‘I’m in my poxy school uniform.’ (1) and ‘My brain goes mashed spud’ (53)
- Alone in a harsh world. ‘He’s looking at the floor at people’s shoes. I start to pant on the inside. Oh god please don’t see me. Please leave me alone…His long curly hair reaches down his back. Jesus on speed. Crucified eyes find me…My fellow cabin-dwellers refuse to see him…’ (88-89)
- Far too knowing. ‘I sit opposite an older guy. Businessman type. The kind who commutes for a hundred grand a year. I slowly unwrap a Chupa Chup… Oh-so-slowly, lick and twist and suck and turn…’ (91-92).
- Sometimes cruel. As a girl scorned, she causes online havoc to her ex-boyfriend and it is frightening to see the ease with which she stalks and terrifies a girl with just one email.
- Often frustrating. I wanted to reach into the pages and shake her. Layla’s mature intuition surfaces when you wish it wouldn’t and takes a hike when it is most needed.
- Layla is all of the above. And yet, she is just_a_girl.
Bravo Kirsten Krauth.
Author Annabel Smith described the novel as ‘gritty and confronting’ (see her review on Goodreads).
Lisa Hill reviewed just_a_girl at ANZ LitLovers and found it to be an ‘impressive debut novel’.
Give us your 25 word or less entry to win a copy of just_a_girl. You can either post your entry below or email to kt at karenleethompson dot com.
Krauth, Kirsten. just_a_girl, UWA Publishing, Crawley, WA. 2013.