“First-novelist Mosier authors a sharp-edged romance about an Arizona native hoping to reinvent herself when she goes “back East” to college. Entering Bryn Mawr, Jaime Cody wants to bury her recent past: the arrest of her father for embezzlement, her degrading waitress jobs and her fling with Buddy the “cowboy.” All goes well until Buddy arrives on campus, “hell bent” on bringing her home. At this point, readers are taken back in time as Jaime recounts her last summer “as a girl,” when she skirts the fate she used to joke about with her best friend, Rosa: “hitched to some loser guy right out of high school, cramped into a trailer in Happy Tepee RV Park, selling fry bread with beans at the mall, drinking beer at desert parties.” Mosier cleanly slices Jaime’s life into three phases: her upper-middle-class childhood; her traumatic adolescence, when financial security slips away as quickly as her trust in her father; and her emergence into adulthood, when she can view her own mistakes and her parents’ mistakes objectively. Featuring lifelike dialogue, three-dimensional characters and an upbeat outcome, the novel also serves up glossy, attention-getting prose (“That was the beginning, as blind and misguided as most beginnings are”) that will appeal to female teens not quite ready to bid their own “girlhoods” good-bye.”
About My Life as a Girl:
Q: How much of My Life as a Girl is based on events in your own life?
A: Like Jaime Cody, I grew up in Arizona and attended Bryn Mawr, which I felt would literally save my life: transform me from a smart girl with a romantic weakness for bad boys into a scholarly woman of substance. I also drew upon some of my job experiences: waiting tables at many different kinds of restaurants and cleaning hotel rooms at a resort hotel. For about a week between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I worked two waitressing jobs, as Jaime does. At one of them, the manager asked me to hem my uniform to a skimpy length. When he kept insisting, I quit.
Fortunately, I wasn’t as desperate for money as Jaime is; my parents sacrificed to put me through college, while I worked for spending money. Jaime’s situation grew out of my desire to write about the compromises young women are often faced with making in order to become independent. The story began with the question, “What if?” What if Jaime’s father, who is supposed to support her on her path to independence, instead steals her means of getting there? How would her choices be different from mine?
Q: Is Jaime Cody’s first romance story modeled after your own? Did you know a boy like Buddy Holt when you were a teenager?
A: Buddy Holt was not my first love, but I knew many boys like him, who because of divorce or neglect or abuse were damaged in some way, dropped without a safety net. Some of these boys played at being bad; some truly were. I suppose that, in creating Buddy’s character, I’m still trying to understand these boys, and maybe to express a wish that they somehow survived.
Q: How do you keep in touch with what teenagers are thinking and feeling? Do you have teenagers read your work before it’s published to get their feedback?
A: First, I trust my own memories — and if memory fails, I consult the journals I kept back then. My parents kept the letters I sent them from college, for example, and these helped me to conjure Jaime’s freshman year in My Life as a Girl. Some things have changed drastically since I was a teenager — clothing, slang, technology — and some things not much at all. When I’m unsure of a detail, I consult my students.
More on My Life As a Girl and on writing for a YA audience:
Interview with Ramona DeFelice Long, Delaware Literary Connection: Part One & Part Two
YA Panel with Beth Kephart,Melissa Walker, and Siobhan Vivian