Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin is a wonderfully written novel about a teenager who is in crisis, struggling to make sense of something that happened, who tells her first person story in a voice that is both strong and vulnerable, luring the reader into sympathizing but never pitying her.
Have you ever read a novel and been so carried away by it that you find yourself falling in love only to reach the end and feel like you just woke up in the wrong person’s bed after a night of poor decisions? That is how I felt by the end of this novel, which began with literary promise and devolved into a Lifetime movie.
If it weren’t so well-written I would have to dismiss this novel altogether but, like The Lovely Bones, the powerful prose gives the story a foundation for recommending it I can’t dismiss quite so easily. Sure, the content has been covered before, with a variation on a theme, and perhaps one could argue it was handled if not better at least equally well. However, derivative or not, the protagonist, as realized by the author, deserves the reader’s attention because Judy Lohden is interesting, intelligent, and inspiring. Her innocence is palpable and even if I found it a bit unbelievable that a sixteen-year-old girl would ever be this naïve, I nevertheless followed along, knowing the inevitable outcome, disappointed that I was not disappointed (in other words, that the “surprise” was completely unsurprising to me), and very disappointed by the neatness of the conclusion.
I don’t begrudge DeWoskin’s choices. A different ending would have either been even more contrived and convenient than the one she wrote or been overwhelming in its despair and complete lack of closure. The problem, dear reader, lies in me because I prefer honest endings where things don’t get tied up in pretty little closed boxes, an ending that is as messy and complicated as real life would have made this book an absolute winner for me and left most other readers angry.
And with that said, I would happily seek out her other novels, curious to see what other stories she has to tell because this one is good enough to keep me interested.