05 April 2014

Throwaway Girl

Author: Kristine Scarrow
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

When I was younger, I thought for a while I wanted to be a social worker so that I could help try to protect the kids that so often fall through the cracks of our social system.  Andy Burton, the main character of this novel, is one such child who I wanted to help.  I realized very early on, before I even had the chance to fully pursue that career, that I would never be able to do it successfully as the despair I would see day in and day out would tear me apart and unfortunately, I'm just not a strong enough person emotionally to handle it.

So I went into this novel praying against all odds that it would not be like a John Green novel.  For Green's novels (though I have only read two so far) have left me wading in a puddle of my own tears by the conclusions for all the heartstrings that they so ruthlessly tugged on.  Ironically, by the end of Throwaway Girl, I was disappointed that it wasn't more like a John Green novel.

For a story of a young girl who is becoming of age (turning 18) and leaving the system to be out on her own in a strange new world, the novel was surprisingly rather emotionless.  Andy deals with a neglectful and abusive birth mother before getting recognized by a teacher and put into the system.  Then she lands at her first foster family, and things finally start to look up.  But this part of the novel is told in flashbacks, and we know something happens there to ruin her happy ending.  I will admit, her time with her first foster family was perhaps the most interesting part of the novel.  Since it is told in flashbacks, it's a mystery what happens to her foster family that is looking into adopting her, and I spent that portion of the novel eagerly trying to figure out what the heck happened.

Then Andy winds up in a not so loving foster home, where she starts cutting herself and is sexually assaulted at the age of 13.  This novel could have had me curled up in a fetal position on the floor, bawling my eyes out while cursing every single character in the novel (save for Andy of course) for being such ruthless and heartless bastards.  But Scarrow's narrator is so clinical for lack of a better word.  Andy's emotions as she relives these terrible moments in her life are effectively emotionless.  I felt that Scarrow was missing the heart and soul behind the writing, and it really prevented me from deeply connecting with Andy as this tortured, completely down on her luck child.  This clinical writing style could stem from the fact that Scarrow's life was on the other side of the table, and that she was a social worker and not on Andy's side of the story.

And then from there we meet Trina.  Once Trina enters the novel, the story seems to really be more about her character than Andy's.  The ending result is so sudden and is glossed over so effectively that it almost rendered me speechless.  I actually swiped back on my tablet to see if I had accidentally skipped an entire chapter instead of just flipping to the next page.  The end of the novel feels like an entire chunk is missing out of it, and the result is a feeling that Andy so quickly glosses over the result in lieu of her happy ending that you once again feel the emotionless of the writing and thus the character.

Not quite as troubling as the Trina side note are some of the highly coincidental moments in the novel - I point mainly to the topic of Andy's mother - that seem less important on the grand scheme of things.

Overall, Throwaway Girl is engaging to the point of trying to open your eyes to the state of our child services system in the United States (while the novel takes place in Canada, I'm sure the system here in the States is no better) and makes you want to reach out and help all the children who are dealt a bad hand of cards right from the beginning who struggle to ever escape from that fact.  But the writing falls short and feels rather cold, which takes away from the truly raw, emotional connection you can sometimes make with characters that takes the reading experience to the next level.

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