Looking Good Carlene

I think this Phil Vassar song about the class valedictorian becoming a fashion model is every nerdy girl’s dream. The title is a bit of a stretch for this blog post but tied with last week’s post One about my struggles being the lonely girl in school it fits with this too.

This week some of us are reviewing Cynthia Toney’s Bird Face (Excerpt) from the perspective of a character we relate to.

Bird Face is a novel about Wendy, an awkward girl who’s not quite blossomed while her best friend has. She’s being raised by a single mom and struggles with finding her place in school since her best friend is being courted by the popular boys and girls. Not to mention being pestered by John Monster, the class bully and dealing with sticky notes from a mysterious author. But not is all it seems. Jennifer’s life isn’t perfect. The leader of the popular girls is hiding a secret, and John has his own monsters to fight. This novel deals with tough issues like eating disorders, divorce, alcoholism, and teen suicide with a great big dose of humor. This story had me at the first hilarious chapter to the end.

Lisa Godfrees gave this blog a nod when wrote about her dystopian junior high days.

Cynthia is one of my critique partners and founding member of The Scriblerians. She and TJ Akers pulled me in right away so I met Wendy and her best friend Jennifer in the beginning. From then on, Jennifer was the girl I identified with. On the surface, Jennifer is a girl to be envied even by her best friend Wendy. She comes from an affluent two parent home. She’s a talented dancer who is pretty and attracts the attention of the popular boys and girls. Jennifer wins the leading role in the spring program. She goes away for the summer and meets new friends.

Jennifer is kind of an idealized version of me. I was the good student from the middle-class, two-parent home. Unlike Jennifer, I can’t sing or dance. But I was the lead in the school plays and at various phases in my life (not middle school or high school), turned the heads of boys, and had friends in the “popular” crowd. Like Jennifer, not was all as it appears. Without giving too much away, Jennifer stars opposite a cute boy and even seems to gain his attention. It’s not Jennifer who gets the boy. Story of my adolescence. Here’s how it typically went for me: I liked a boy. He found out. He ended up liking one of my friends.

gret1012291

Little Abner, my only experience in a musical (as a member of the chorus). I had leading roles in I Remember Mama and The Curious Savage

While I was spared the trauma of glasses and braces, it didn’t mean I entered my teenage years all cute. For my middle school debut, I looked like boy with a bad haircut and worse fashion sense.

gret1012708

Notice my awesome Velcro shoes that would have been stylish — If I were an 80 year old man

By the time I started high school my haircut and clothes improved. I might have turned heads and even had a few dates, but it didn’t gain me a boyfriend or a place at the popular table. Most days, I felt as if I were fighting for a spot in my own crowd.

gret1012194

By freshman year, I pretty much outgrew my awkwardness or at least had somewhat mastered the curling iron.

If you’ve read Bird Face, which character is most like you? If you haven’t, what were you like in high school?

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About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

Posted on 2014/02/24, in Reading. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. T.J. Akers

    This was awesome and you were just adorable too. Knowing you now, it’s hard to think of you as Daisy May.

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