Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch
From Amazon / Publishers Weekly
An unenthusiastic Southern debutante copes with the cruelties of postcollege New York life in Crouch's amusing debut. Sarah Walters is neither a misfit nor the queen of the Camellia Society cotillion scene growing up in Charleston, S.C. But when she and her fellow Camellias try to make a life in New York City, they find themselves coping in unexpectedly dangerous ways—from standard substance addictions to Sarah's fixation on preppy ex-boyfriend Max, a smooth and sadistic child of wealth. While the formula of young women in the big city seems destined for cliché, Crouch subverts most expectations; Sarah almost purposely misses an opportunity for happiness and stability with the gentle lover she met in Europe, and her ploy to ignite sparks with a college friend goes painfully awry. When Sarah goes back to Charleston and faces a perhaps too over-the-top family crisis (it involves suicide and lesbianism), the reader's left with the hope that the worst is over. Though this feels almost like a collection—each chapter its own story with its own narrative technique—Crouch's portrayal of a young woman's self-sabotage and the pitfalls facing young women in a cold world is wise, wry and heartbreaking. (Apr.)
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I just can decide whether I really loved this book or am annoyed with it! On one hand, I could not put the book down - I had to keep reading to find out what Sarah would do next, what was going on with her friends and family, etc. But the book just jumped around too much - one chapter might be about the summer before college, then the next would be 10 years after college, and then back again to a friend's perspective from during college! I had a hard time keeping track of the timeline throughout the book.
Still... there's no denying that Sarah's story is compelling. And throughout the book, the one connecting thread is that she was a Camellia (the group of women who were debutantes, daughters of debutantes...) and this keeps her grounded and connected in ways she didn't always realize. She may have left home and her Southern roots, but she couldn't escape the Camellias.
Unlike most books, this one doesn't end with everything all wrapped up and tidy. You still don't know how much more Sarah will struggle, but you do at least feel that she's grown and will make more mature decisions with her life - which I guess is all any of us can hope for in our own lives.
Overall, this is a solid 4 stars, possibly even 4 1 /2 for the great writing that kept me reading late in the night.