Senior Rianne Hettrick-Wynne has had her share of hookups and parties in small-town Wereford, Minnesota. Now volleyball season is over and her once-solid friendships are unraveling, while an all-of-a-sudden relationship with Luke Pinsky is weirdly becoming serious. Add to that the possibility of getting kicked out of her house, and Rianne is desperate to make a plan that doesn’t include going to college or working at Planet Tan for the rest of her life.
At the same time, her divorced parents have started cohabiting again without any explanation, making Rianne wonder why they’re so intent on pointing out every bad choice she makes when they can’t even act like adults.
That’s not the only question she can’t answer: How is it that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian who makes his own vodka, is the only one who seems to understand her? And why, when she has Luke, the most unattainable boy in Wereford, all to herself, does she want anything but?
Perhaps most confounding is the “easy girl” reputation that Rianne has gotten stuck with by doing the same things that guys do without judgment or consequence. If they’re just being guys, then why can’t Rianne just be a girl?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Underage drinking
Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 10-12. Rianne’s spent her whole life in Wereford, a small, nothing town in the Midwest, living with her divorced mom, getting up to mild trouble with her friends, casually sleeping around, and not trying terribly hard in school. By the time senior year rolls around, she still doesn’t have any plans for her future, and she finds herself in a relationship with notorious playboy Luke Pinsky, who’s kind of loyal and sweet, if oblivious to her needs. But when she meets Sergei, a 25-year-old Russian man who’s studying agriculture at the community college, she’s immediately entranced by his assured worldliness and, later, the confident way he touches her, which she keeps a secret from everyone, especially Luke. When she’s faced with making a definitive choice about her future, can she decide between what she truly wants and what’s been deemed “good”? Mesrobian is at her best plumbing the depths of what happens between big choices and elevating those potent moments of transition, and she does that beautifully here. Rianne’s rich inner life, especially when it’s at odds with what’s expected of her, is captivatingly full of meaningful, compelling drama, and Mesrobian’s frank, realistic depiction of teenage sexuality is a particular bright spot. There’s nothing simple about being just a girl, and this resonant, thoughtful novel makes that abundantly, stunningly clear.
Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
A high school senior whose mother has given her an ultimatum that she must leave home immediately after graduation struggles to decide what she will do next. Bright and tough but at times self-loathing, Rianne stumbles into a serious relationship with her hook-up buddy, Luke, during their last few months of school. However, she also has several electrifying sexual encounters with Sergei, a Russian student studying at a nearby college. Despite enjoying a small, tightknit group of friends, Rianne has had to deal with being labeled a slut, and while she recognizes it for the unfair double standard it is, she is still shamed by it. The alcohol- and pot-fueled hangouts that make up a lot of the social scene in their small Minnesota town will ring true to rural teens. Rianne is a complex, conflicted character, and her third-person narrative voice keeps her at a bit of a remove even as she grapples intensely with her thoughts. All of the central characters are white with the exception of Rianne’s friend Kaj, who is Hmong-American, and each is interesting in his or her own right. The unexpected ending may leave some readers wondering, but it’s not a surprise that this slice-of-life novel leaves things slightly ambiguous. An authentic, smart read for older teens. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
Carrie Mesrobian teaches writing to teens in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence, was named a Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, in addition to being nominated for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. She has also written Just a Girl, Perfectly Good White Boy, and Cut Both Ways.
Her website is www.carriemesrobian.com.
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