Big Girl Small
By Rachel DeWoskin
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374112578, 304pp.)
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
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Judy Lohden is your above-average sixteen-year-old—sarcastic and vulnerable, talented and uncertain, full of big dreams for a big future. With a singing voice that can shake an auditorium, she should be the star of Darcy Academy, the local performing arts high school. So why is a girl this promising hiding out in a seedy motel room on the edge of town?
The fact that the national media is on her trail after a controversy that might bring down the whole school could have something to do with it. And that scandal has something—but not everything—to do with the fact that Judy is three feet nine inches tall.
Rachel DeWoskin remembers everything about high school: the auditions (painful), the parents (hovering), the dissection projects (compelling), the friends (outcasts), the boys (crushable), and the girls (complicated), and she lays it all out with a wit and wistfulness that is half Holden Caulfield, half Lee Fiora, Prep’s ironic heroine. Big Girl Small is a scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and unwaveringly serious.
Rachel DeWoskin is the author of Foreign Babes in Beijing, a memoir about her inadvertent notoriety as the star of a Chinese soap opera, and a novel, Repeat After Me. She lives in New York City and Beijing and is at work on her fourth book, Statutory.
“The voice of Judy Lohden will ring in my head for weeks to come. A first page so funny and fierce I read it aloud to my teenagers—in public. Judy stuffs Holden Caulfield right back into his dusty museum case and shows us the rawness and the dark humor of today’s coming-of-age experience. Judy Lohden speaks for all young people facing the unspeakable ignorance of others. Yet Rachel DeWoskin handles the story with the sensitivity of a scalpel and a humor that leaves the reader howling. I was delighted and moved.” —Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
“Big Girl Small is the most engaging novel I’ve read in many years. DeWoskin has aimed the book at all the pleasure centers: it’s sad, funny, quirkily suspenseful, and—most of all—beautiful. I can’t imagine a more satisfying read. A book for anyone, anywhere, who’s ever felt alien or different. That is, a book for everyone.” —Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and More Than It Hurts You
“I loved reading Big Girl Small as much as I loved watching The Breakfast Club for the first time. Is Rachel DeWoskin our new John Hughes?” —Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day
“This is what Rachel Dewoskin wants to know: how do you go on living in a world that exalts creativity yet stifles difference? DeWoskin describes exactly what high school kids are like: the smart ones, and the sensitive ones, and the okay ones, and the happy ones, and the fake ones, and the twisty artists, and the true talents, and in the middle of it all, her exuberant creation Judy Lohden—a stellar phenomenon growing like a poppy towards the sun. Witty, intuitive, and moving, Big Girl Small examines the crucial moment when we either listen to what the world says and stay small, or dare to sing out at the top of our lungs.” —Nicola Keegan, author of Swimming
“DeWoskin deftly captures the often vicious dynamics of adolescents, which mask their fragility, and creates in Judy an unforgettable character, one who is, by turns, sardonic and heartbreakingly vulnerable.” —Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)
“DeWoskin’s daring third book takes on sexual politics, physical beauty, pity, and violence, and succeeds in giving readers a nuanced and provocative treatment without descending into pedantics or hysteria . . . It’s a rare author who is willing to subject her protagonist to the extreme ranges of degradation and redemption to which DeWoskin subjects Judy; thankfully, she manages it beautifully.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction even as she uses them to pull the readers’ heartstrings.” —Kirkus Reviews