Summary and book reviews of Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin

Big Girl Small

A Novel

by Rachel DeWoskin

Big Girl Small
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2011, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2012, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

A scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and unwaveringly serious.

Judy Lohden is your above-average sixteen-year-old - sarcastic and vulnerable, talented and uncertain, full of big dreams for a big future. With a singing voice that can shake an auditorium, she should be the star of Darcy Academy, the local performing arts high school. So why is a girl this promising hiding out in a seedy motel room on the edge of town?

The fact that the national media is on her trail after a controversy that might bring down the whole school could have something to do with it. And that scandal has something - but not everything - to do with the fact that Judy is three feet nine inches tall.

Rachel DeWoskin remembers everything about high school: the auditions (painful), the parents (hovering), the dissection projects (compelling), the friends (outcasts), the boys (crushable), and the girls (complicated), and she lays it all out with a wit and wistfulness that is half Holden Caulfield, half Lee Fiora, Prep's ironic heroine. Big Girl Small is a scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and unwaveringly serious.

1

When people make you feel small, it means they shrink you down close to nothing, diminish you, make you feel like shit. In fact, small and shit are like equivalent words in English. It makes sense, in a way. Not that small and shit are the same, I mean, but that Americans might think that. Take The Wizard of Oz, for example, an American classic everyone loves more than anything even though there's a whole "Munchkinland" of embarrassed people, half of them dressed in pink rompers and licking lollipops even though they're thirty years old. They don't even have names in the credits; it just says at the end, "Munchkins played by 'The Singer Midgets.'" Judy Garland apparently loved gay people, was even something of an activist, but she spread rumors about how the "midgets" were so raucous, fucking each other all the time and drinking bourbon on the set. People love those stories because it's so much fun to think of tiny people having sex. There was even an urban myth about how one of the...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss Judy's attitude about life as an LP? Did her attitude surprise you? Have you ever personally known an LP?


  2. Judy comes to the conclusion that "suffering isn't relative." What does this mean to you, and do you agree?


  3. Is Judy a reliable narrator? In what ways might her perception of reality be slightly distorted? What do you make of her assessment of Kyle, before and after his actions are revealed?


  4. Judy faces many adolescent hardships throughout the novel, but also the thrill of many "firsts". Is Judy perhaps afraid to grow up? What do you make of Sarah's assertion that the brain becomes less "exuberant" in adulthood?


  5. When Judy hears that Ginger may have spread a nasty rumor, she muses: "Can you really ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

DeWoskin's novel evokes high school life with a kind of biting cynicism while it simultaneously offers a hopeful coming-of-age story with a performing arts setting that will appeal to fans of the television shows Fame and Glee. Big Girl Small is both sophisticated thematically and (at times) raucously crude, the kind of book both teenage girls and their parents might laugh along with.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (547 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction even as she uses them to pull the readers' heartstrings.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's a rare author who is willing to subject her protagonist to the extreme ranges of degradation and redemption to which DeWoskin subjects Judy; thankfully, she manages it beautifully.

Booklist

Starred Review. DeWoskin deftly captures the often vicious dynamics of adolescents, which mask their fragility, and creates in Judy an unforgettable character, one who is, by turns, sardonic and heartbreakingly vulnerable.

Author Blurb Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
The voice of Judy Lohden will ring in my head for weeks to come. A first page so funny and fierce I read it aloud to my teenagers - in public. Judy stuffs Holden Caulfield right back into his dusty museum case and shows us the rawness and the dark humor of today's coming-of-age experience. Judy Lohden speaks for all young people facing the unspeakable ignorance of others. Yet Rachel DeWoskin handles the story with the sensitivity of a scalpel and a humor that leaves the reader howling. I was delighted and moved.

Author Blurb Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and More Than It Hurts You
Big Girl Small is the most engaging novel I've read in many years. DeWoskin has aimed the book at all the pleasure centers: it's sad, funny, quirkily suspenseful, and - most of all - beautiful. I can't imagine a more satisfying read. A book for anyone, anywhere, who's ever felt alien or different. That is, a book for everyone.

Reader Reviews

Sara

Thought provoking read
This book had me saying out loud, so true every couple of pages. The plot was slow building, but I did not care because I enjoyed reading this book so much.

Barbie

High School Relived
I only gave a 3 because I read the book until the end. It was well written and flows easily. I was hoping at some point this would become uplifting but it never got out of the muck of high school. Nothing new except for the size of the main character...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Achondroplasia

In Rachel DeWoskin's novel, Big Girl Small, Judy Lohden has achondroplasia, a genetic bone growth disorder that results in short-limbed dwarfism (responsible for about 70% of all dwarfism cases). The word "achondroplasia" literally means "without cartilage formation," however, the term is a bit of a misnomer as the body of a person with achondroplasia is able to form cartilage but then fails to convert it to bone (especially in the long bones, i.e. arms and legs). This happens when there is a mutation of the FGFR3 gene (the gene responsible for producing a protein that develops and maintains the growth of bone and brain tissue), which then causes disruptions in skeletal development.

Affecting 1 out of every 15,000 - 40,000 births, a ...

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