Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti

Sydney is leaving boarding school for the summer to visit her movie star mother, Lila Shore, in San Francisco. Lila can be fun, but she can also be needy, insecure and mean. Sydney hopes this visit will be different, but already she has “a bad feeling, even before I left home. A strong one.” Her feelings are confirmed when she meets Lila’s new boyfriend, Jake. He’s domineering, aggressive and defensive, especially when Sydney starts asking about the huge framed artworks that mysteriously appear and disappear from the rented luxury beach house they’re staying in. Both Lila and Jake also make regular, uncomfortable comments about Sydney’s appearance, that she “looks a lot older” than fifteen, and that she’s acting like “Miss Sexy” in that “tight shirt.” Sydney, who “wasn’t in that part of womanhood yet where your body was something you were supposed to keep one nervous eye on all the time, like a bank balance, ” is quickly disgusted by both of them, especially after they start fighting when they think she’s gone to bed. Thank god for Nicco, the smart, artistic boy she meets at the beach. Her blossoming romance with him just might save her summer. But why is there always an unmarked black car parked across the street from the beach house? Why does Lila suddenly have all these bruises that she tries to hide with makeup? When Sydney finally learns the answers to those questions, her world shatters and nothing will ever be the same again–between her and Lila, between her and Nicco, but mostly between the woman she is now and the girl she used to be.

I couldn’t put down this riveting novel that thoroughly explodes the myths and stereotypes surrounding female sexuality and power. Sydney constantly questions how she feels about her body and her appearance, wondering if being attractive to men is a strength or a liability. “Sexy was something you wanted to be. Sexy was something you should never be.” This is a book about finding your voice, taking back your power and, to paraphrase Margaret Atwood, never letting the patriarchy grind you down. You will find yourself framing the world in a different way after reading Girl, Unframed.

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