Book Review: just_a_girl (Plus WIN a copy)

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Author: Kirsten Krauth
ISBN: 978-1-74258-495-9
RRP: $24.95

just_a_girl follows the confronting and questionable cyber behaviour of 14 year old Layla as she chats with strangers online and starts exploring her sexuality. She lives in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales with her mother and spends a lot of time on the train.

There are three protagonists in just_a_girl – Layla, her mother Margot and Tadashi, the Japanese man she often shares a train with. The three voices are very different and it takes quite a while for Tadashi’s relevance to the story to surface.

Margot suffers from depression and is just coming off anti-depressants with the help of charismatic Pastor Bevan at the evangelical church she’s a member of, Riverlay. Her narrative is written in the form of her thoughts so we are taken right inside her head. This gives us a better insight into Margot and explains the dynamic of her relationship with Layla quite well.

The relationship between Margot and Layla is quite strained and distant. They don’t talk and Margot has no idea of the things that Layla gets up to online, or the way she brings her online behaviours into her real life. It is quite scary to think of the risks that Layla is taking and how easily she gets away with it.

Layla is not close to her mother and she hardly ever sees her father who is a celebrity chef living in Queensland with a succession of boyfriends. She only sees him for a couple of weeks a year and their contact is sporadic between visits. I think this has got a lot to do with Layla’s behaviour, the men that she chats with validate her and give her a sense of worth that she isn’t getting from her family. Her boyfriend is 18 and his family are also quite dysfunctional.

Layla’s behaviour is risky and the whole thought of a 14 year old behaving that way makes my skin crawl, especially knowing that I will have a 14yr old daughter one day. Teens are growing up much quicker now than they were when I was a teen. Yes there were girls behaving similar to this, without the benefit of a computer screen to separate them, but it seemed very rare and now it is becoming disturbingly common. I found that even though Layla took many risks with her behaviour she had a definite line she wouldn’t cross. She involved herself in racy talk online with strangers, and even uploaded a video of herself to YouTube but I don’t think she ever went all the way with her boyfriend. She met an older man online and booked into a hotel with him, it seemed like the whole purpose of the meeting was for sex but that didn’t eventuate.

just a girl

She finds herself physically assaulted and filmed on the train one night, with the video ending up on YouTube. While working in a supermarket she is sexually assaulted by one of her bosses, a perverted old man who has a habit of inappropriate behaviour with the young female staff and everyone turns a blind eye. They try to warn the new staff not to be in a position where they could find themselves on the end of his hands but that’s as far as it goes. These incidents affect Layla quite deeply, even though she puts herself in much riskier situations. I think a lot of it is that she had no control over these events, and she was in a situation where they shouldn’t have happened.

The one thing that I found extremely irritating about Layla’s voice was the sentence structure. Her POV was written in short jarring sentences that often seemed more like fragments, like sentences were just cut in half and that took quite a but if getting used to.

Tadashi, his is a story that I am still trying to get my head around long after finishing the book. He is looking for the perfect lover and someone he can share an intimate companionship with, the problem is he is extremely introverted and has been alone since the passing of his mother. He was ostracised at school for being different so has always been on the outside and his loneliness has only deepened since losing his mother. He purchases his perfect lover online, a Candy Girl Petite Jewel love doll. I couldn’t seem to connect to Tadashi, possibly because he is such an introverted soul who always keeps himself at a distance. Even on the train he always makes sure that he is in one of the single seats so that no-one can sit with him. The amount of care he takes with his love doll is quite intense as he wants her to be perfect and I wasn’t even aware that this was something you could purchase, let alone to such exact specifications. I found his interactions with her to be a little creepy, she was very real to him and he interacted with her as such.

just_a_girl has been described as a Puberty Blues for the digital age and I can see why. Layla is trying to find her place in the world as she explores the power of sexuality and her body. She is disconnected from her parents and has very little other family and few friends, her boyfriend is older and they don’t seem to connect on more than a physical level.

This is a complex and disturbing novel of loneliness, isolation and the dangers of disconnection. It was a story I enjoyed and that will stay with me for a long time, it will certainly have me checking on the online activities of my children as they get older as well. Kirsten’s writing style is entertaining and the three voices were so different that it was quite easy to keep them separated which I really appreciated. I will certainly look forward to more by Kirsten Krauth.

WIN A COPY

Thanks to Kirsten Krauth and the good people at UWA Publishing we have 5 print copies of just_a_girl to give away to 5 lucky readers.

For your chance to win a copy please tell us in the comments section below where you spend most of your cyber-time.

Competition closes 31/03/14 midnight AEST. You must be subscribed to the Beauty and Lace newsletter OR a Facebook fan to enter. Make sure you use a valid email address so we can contact you if you are a lucky winner

Terms and conditions

– All decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into.
– Competition is a game of skill. Chance plays no part in determining the winner.
– Prize not negotiable, and cannot be exchanged or taken as cash.
– One entry per person
– Competition open to Australian residents only
– Entries are only valid if all required fields have been entered. No responsibility accepted for lost, late or misdirected entries.
– All entries become the property of Beauty and Lace. Your details will not be given or sold to any third parties unless required for claiming of the prize.
– We reserve the right to make changes to the prize and competition if required.
– Winners will be notified by email

49 thoughts on “Book Review: just_a_girl (Plus WIN a copy)

  1. When I first read what this book was about I at first cringed but in hindsight…..there are probably lots of teens out there that are doing exactly the same thing. Personally, after reading your review Michelle, I would like to see this book read by teens and mothers of teens. Although I don’t have teens I would still like to experience the reading of this book because I have friends with kids and it would give me that inside look of problems going on in this world.
    It is hard when you are lonely and crave love and friendship and are given attention by another person.
    A very intriguing book I would now presume.

  2. I spend most of my cyber time playing Trivia, Scrabble, on Facebook and checking RSPCA, Local Dog Pound, Cussons Lifestyle Community Vibe Village, Beauty and Lace and numerous other sites. I multitask continuously while on my Computer – watch TV, read and chat to my other half. I am woman of many talents and interests and would love to win a copy of just_a_girl.

  3. I spend most of my cyber time on Facebook, Youtube and watching episodes of my favourite shows.

  4. I spend the majority of my cyber life on Facebook,Cussons Community, Lifestyle Community, Beauty and Lace as well as teen girl magazine sites. No onger a teen myslf I still find myself favouring teen sites/young adult books, movies and puberty blues as well as magical and vampire style novels. This book would be right up my alley and then put in on the local libraries radar!

  5. Hello my name is Mandy and I am addicted to Candy Crush,(even though it drives me insane), escape games, following my favourite Aussie authors on facebook that I have got to know through B&L, chatting to people in their blogs and forum sites, voicing my opinions through survey sites and recommending products to others. All this in between my reading of books, completing jigsaw puzzles and watching my tv serials. Wow, I guess this all explains why my ironing is always way behind.

  6. I spend most of my time on facebook or youtube or researching the net. With two kids. A farm. A part time job and two home businesses.. I have very little time to go out so I catch up with friends on facebook. And further my horsemanship skills by watching tutorials on youtube.

  7. It’s pretty sad but my laptop is my life…I’m on Disability and have a number of health issues that affect every minute of my day and keep me virtually house-bound.
    I spend my computer time on Facebook, Internet shopping & browsing (usually the latter). I pass my time by completing surveys – I’m a member of 20+ really good survey sites where I can earn a little bit extra. I also spend a lot of time with competitions (and have been quite lucky). I also am registered with a number of quality sites where I get chosen to trial & review products – beauty products, books, grocery items, etc.
    I would love to read this book and then give it to my daughter to read. I have seen the good and the bad sides of the Internet and can see why teens get sucked in to many dangerous situations.

  8. My cyber time is spent on Facebook and Twitter, entering competitions and conversing with friends (only ones I know in real life). I have twin teenagers and this would be a manual to todays world – fore-warned is fore-armed.

  9. Wow, this sounds like such an interesting read!
    Well, I used to spend most of my cyber time on Facebook, and whilst I still frequent it regularly, every morning I go on Youtube and find an exercise video and bust my butt do that! ๐Ÿ™‚ It is all part of my lifestyle change after a health scare late last year. I never get tired of it as there are so many different styles of exercise and so many different instructors.

  10. Facebook is my weakness. But love the posts of inspiration, things to do with my kids and checking out whast friends and family up to. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I live and breathe on the internet. It’s where I work and play! I’m usually checking my email every other minute, designing/developing websites (sometimes just for fun) and googling random things like ‘why don’t penguins feet freeze’.

  12. These days I drift through foodie websites trying to find local organic cafes and new recipes to bake at home

  13. I spend a fai bit of time on Facebook. I also like ready beauty blogs and beauty forums and reviews sites

  14. On Beauty and Lace of course. What else would make a girl happier then advise on how to look young forever.

  15. I wish I could say studying, considering I have lots of assignments due in the next couple of weeks but I would havw to say its a two way tie between Facebook (just likr everybody else) and online shopping. I’m absolutely addicted to the bargains uou can find, plus who doesn’t like opening there door to a parcel, its like your very own birthday present haha

  16. After twenty five years, I have headed back to tertiary study so much of my online time is now spent trying to find journal articles for my studies. Like others, however, I also enter a few competitions every now and again so I can win special treats (like movie tickets) for my daughter and I!

  17. Playing scrabble, entering comps, learning new things, wading through emails and occasionally chatting to friends…but would rather do that in person!

  18. Unlike Layla, I don’t seem to have any cyber imagination. I spend most of my time online clearing my email’s inbox of shopping circulars and spam.

  19. I spend most of my cyber time on book blogs finding new to me authors & their works. LOVE to read.

  20. With a child with special needs we spend a lot of time exploring new ideas and approaches and sharing them with his medical and educational professionals in order to enhance his learning experience. Aside from that, I love to spend time catching up with friends on facebook. Technology allows me to communicate when it suits me, even later at night and I know I am not going to disturb the recipient. As we all know the dread we all feel when that phone rings at dinner hour. Facebook messaging eliminates all that.

  21. I limit myself to time on my laptop.I mainly play scrabble with friends & family & enter a few competitions like this one.

  22. I spend my cyber time trying to educate myself. I try to find something new everyday to increase my knowledge base. So my sights are set wide and far – from beauty and cooking to history and culture. I’m also a seller on eBay to try and raise a few extra dollars.

  23. I spend most of my cyber time reading books before bed and chatting with FB friends and family over the internet, playing scrabble and cribbage to keep my mind active and young at heart

  24. I spend most of my online time on facebook, checking e-mails, and researching future purchases, gifts, travels, etc!

  25. I have to say sadly that most of my cyber time is spent on Facebook although I’d love those hours back. lol

  26. My cyber-time is spent trawling for competitions. It’s how I manage to give decent presents at Christmas on a pension.

  27. Maintaining face to face relationships is very important to me rather than the pretence of a facebook ‘friendship’, so the little time that I spend in cyber-world is on email organising gatherings with friends.

  28. I spend most of my cyber-time on this amazing beauty website keeping up on all the latest beauty, fashion and entertainment news!

  29. I spend most of my cyber-time on beauty related websites and forums learning about new beauty products and application techniques.

  30. Trying to create pictures of amazing anime world and characters as well as looking for the awesome efforts of others

  31. I spend most of my time online on facebook and twitter.I’m a meber of the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY mafia.I post links regarding the books and movie and chat with fans

  32. Facebook where I can connect with my friends from all around the world easily and instantly. Fabulous.

  33. Looking up beauty reviews and watching make-up tutorials… I’ve learnt so much and my face thanks me for it!

  34. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who entered in the just_a_girl comp! I’ve been enjoying reading through all your comments. Unlike Layla, my time online is less dramatic. I spend a lot of it on Goodreads and Pinterest… But I did spend a lot of time researching the lives of teenage girls online – and it was quite eye-opening at times what they would reveal to strangers…

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