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just_a_girl by [Krauth, Kirsten]
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just_a_girl Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Length: 272 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled
Language: English

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Product description

Product Description

just_a_girl tears into the fabric of contemporary culture. A Puberty Blues for the digital age, a Lolita with a webcam, it's what happens when young girls are forced to grow up too fast. Or never get the chance to grow up at all.

Layla is only 14. She cruises online. She catches trains to meet strangers. Her mother, Margot, never suspects. Even when Layla brings a man into their home. Margot's caught in her own web: an evangelical church and a charismatic pastor. Meanwhile, downtown, a man opens a suitcase and tenderly places his young lover inside.

just_a_girl is a contemporary adult novel about being isolated and searching for a sense of connection, faith, friendship and healing, and explores what it's like to grow up negotiating the digital world of facebook, webcams, internet porn, mobile phones and cyberbullying - a world where the line between public and private is increasingly being eroded.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 631 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: UWA Publishing (1 June 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GUNU1L4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #412,212 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition
One word remained top of my mind while reading just_a_girl: 'disturbing'. If it's not an oxymoron, I mean `disturbing' in a good, or at least productive sense. What troubled me most was the way in which Kirsten Krauth has laid bare the demeaning and damaging side of contemporary sexual politics, and its internalisation by the generation born into this century. To the author - and to her 14-year-old female protagonist, Layla - neither the equalitarian promises of women's lib nor the democratising possibilities of new technologies have translated into enduring affirmations of gender equality. The ironies are bitter: an online video of Layla being assaulted by train-riding hooligans goes viral, but where were the CCTV cameras when Layla's boss groped her in the vegetable aisle of his supermarket? Sadly, none of the scenarios depicted in the novel appear extraordinary. In just_a_girl, the casual misogyny and exploitation that typifies Layla's world are all part of the normal flux of teenage existence.

Which is not to say that Layla isn't a strong character with her own agenda, ideas and nous. Krauth, however, has crafted the story in such a way that the reader can step back from Layla's often witty self-justifications to see the fragility of the facade she presents to others - and to herself. The narrative is propelled by three separate characters: Layla, her mother Margot, and a disconnected young Japanese man, Tadashi. The interweaving of these three voices breaks the reliance on Layla's self-narrative, without attempting to recapture identical events from multiple perspectives. Each character is whole, although I was curious as to why only Tadashi was rendered in the third person. Perhaps this approach echoed his distance from human contact.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In just_a_girl Kirsten Krauth examines what it means to be alone in a world that, on the surface, values connectedness above all else. Layla is a fourteen-year-old wannabe Lolita; her soul-searching mother, Margot is drawn to the certainties of the Hillsong-style Riverlay Church; and Takashi, a young Japanese man, is embarking on life with the girl of his dreams. These three characters' stories brush against each other, but never fully intersect.

In Layla, Krauth confidently pulls off the voice of a troubled teenager emotionally fending for herself while her absentee father and mother are lost in their own journeys of self-discovery. There's an authenticity to the sheer pace of Layla's narration and scattergun approach to life that kept me wondering whether she was going to end up in an ambulance, and possibly a body-bag too.

Layla's world is void of certainties: friendship and family are unreliable and only the internet appears to provide the 24/7 attention that Layla craves. In her constantly shifting and disappointing world, Layla tries to control the image that she presents to the world, but hints emerge ("like being with a corpse") to suggest she's failing to hide the void she feels inside. Layla is a child, who after filming an explicit video to post online, seeks comfort by liking fluffy-cat pictures on Facebook. Her naivety in a world that gives her access to every sort of adult temptation is chilling.

While Layla's story pulses with energy, Margot's narrative feels less fresh. The lonely, single-mother seeking solace from a church led by a charismatic yet secretly child-abusing pastor at time treads close to cliché. But maybe that's the point: Margot almost disappears into the generic template of a suburban housewife. What could be lonelier than that?
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Format: Kindle Edition
Kirsten Krauth's 'just_a_girl' is a tense, edgy and compelling insight into adolescence which I read in a single sitting.

The central character, Layla is 14 years old. Seemingly streetwise and social media savvy, she has the terrifying overconfidence of the young and puts herself at tremendous risk with her sexual behaviour, which includes meeting up with older men she has connected with online. Her recklessness creates a sense of ongoing dread in the reader, which contributes to the suspense of the novel.

Though she may not be aware of it, Layla is searching for connection. Her parents are separated and she rarely sees her father. She falls out with her best friend and does not seem to have other friends her own age. Her mother, Margot, worries about her, but doesn't know how to talk to her.

Margot is also seeking connection. Struggling with depression and unable to move on from the failure of her marriage to Layla's father, she seeks support through an evangelical church. Layla's disinterest in the church serves to further disconnect mother and daughter, but they both fall under the spell of the charismatic pastor and this triangle creates a dramatic focus for the novel.

Gritty and confronting, this is a disturbing and perceptive portrait of a generation who are growing up too fast, perpetually 'connected' through social media but struggling to find true connection.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read just_a_girl within the first week after publication. I loved it. Layla's voice is one of the most authentic teenage narrators I've ever met in fiction, and being a PhD candidate studying YA fiction, I have read A LOT of teenage narrators in the last two years. I understood Layla and believed her and I wanted to protect her (haha) but at the same time enjoyed following her through her experiences as she navigated teenage life. Her mother Margot's narration was interesting and a nice contrast to ... Tadashi's narration, though seemingly disconnected from L and M's lives, provided some nice, complementary commentary about the nature of femininity. For me, the novel (at times) seamlessly blurred the lines between reality and fantasy; the real and imagined lives of three different people.

As a long-time YA fan, I studied YA for my Honours thesis a few years ago, looking at subverting the conventions of YA and moving beyond censorship. The best thing about Kirsten's novel was the honesty created by Layla's voice. She told the truth about teenage life; no sugar-coating or self-censorship! We need more of these voices in fiction with young narrators and I truly believe Kirsten has tapped into some new territory here, crossing over between adult, YA and possibly even New Adult fiction. Amy x
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