Book Quote:

“No one will kick a girl. No one will hit her or push her or throw a clump of mud at her head. But they will laugh at her. They will stare. They will stand to the side and watch her be alone.”

Book Review:

Review by Poornima Apte (APR 20, 2010)

It is evident that the talented Aryn Kyle still remembers what it is like to be a girl. In her superb debut, The God of Animals, Kyle illuminated the life of twelve-year old Alice Winston as she grows up on a horse farm. Alice’s interactions with the people around her and the lessons she learned growing up were never forced, but came through everyday nuanced interactions—ones that emphasized the role of social class in a rapidly changing Colorado countryside.

Kyle’s latest work is a collection of short stories—BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME—and here too she sheds light on the many tribulations (and joys) of girlhood. What’s more she shows how the girls we read about, grow up to be the women we see around us.

In one of my favorite stories in the book, “Nine,” nine-year-old Tess is trying to come to terms with her mother’s sudden abandonment of the family two years ago. Her father has systematically removed all traces of the mother but occasional reminders pop up. For instance, there’s the red coat in the hallway closet calling out to Tess and reminding her of the past. Tess’s father is now in a new relationship while Tess herself is being counseled at school by two professionals who use puppets and other props to get at the girl’s true feelings. Kyle does a superb job of describing Tess’s reactions both to her father’s new girlfriend (Meredith) and to the school professionals—it is the kind of reaction that really captures the mixed emotions of girlhood. On her birthday, Tess gets a Raggedy Ann lunch box from her babysitter, Mrs. Stuart. It’s the kind of lunch box no self-respecting girl would be caught dead carrying, Tess thinks, but of course none of the adults know this. Tess’s reaction to this lunch box and the subsequent events that follow might seem blown out of proportion to adults but make perfect sense when seen from her point of view.

In another of my favorites, “Allegiance,” a recent English transplant, Glynnis, is paired with a classmate, Leora Faust. Glynnis, whose mother is English and coping with depression from suddenly being transplanted abroad, soon learns that she would need to dump Leora to make nice with the more popular girls in class. The methods she uses to systematically ingratiate herself with the “Megans” might make one wince but it is to Kyle’s enormous credit that the reader can sympathize with Glynnis’s actions till the very end.

The girls and women in Kyle’s stories sometimes tell lies to get their way or get ahead—in a way, these stories are quite dark and are uncomfortable in the truths they lay bare about human behavior. “Tess understands she sometimes tells lies. She does. But they are little, unimportant lies. Sick. Dead. Gone. What do her lies matter to anyone else? Why does the world care?,” writes Kyle in “Nine.”

Boys and Girls Like You and Me makes a strong impact precisely because the stories ring so true and there is so much nuance in every telling. Kyle shows a lot of empathy in her writing. As easy as it might be to make comparisons to stories like Mean Girls, such analogies don’t really work. The girls and women in these stories are no caricatures. They are real and full of complex emotions—some petty, some not. Boys and Girls Like You and Me is a superb follow-up to The God of Animals. The stories hit their mark often with unnerving disquiet—it’s also the reason why they work so well. Aryn Kyle’s latest work confirms her place as a wholly original talent in contemporary American fiction.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 21 readers
PUBLISHER: Scribner; 1 edition (April 20, 2010)
REVIEWER: Poornima Apte
EXTRAS: Reading Guide
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April 20, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Reading Guide, Short Stories, y Award Winning Author

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