Published November 23, 2021
About Girl, Unstrung
You might think it’s fun to grow up around Hollywood with semi-famous parents.
You’d be wrong, and Clara Cassidy would be the first to tell you so.
She’s fourteen, figuring out life with three siblings and a new stepmom, and navigating her freshman year at a stupid high school where she doesn’t even want to be. She was supposed to be at arts school by now.
It’s fine, though, totally fine: she’s going to practice her viola extra hard and get into LACHSA next year. She’s definitely 100 percent focused and not even slightly going to get distracted by Tim, the sophomore Scrabble champion with the swoopy hair and the chin dimple. Nope. Not her.
I liked a lot of things about GIRL, UNSTRUNG, but I feel like overall my review is going to be mixed.
One of the elements I loved were Clara’s relationships with her family members, especially her stepmom, Ebba. It’s complicated, emotional, and I felt like Clara actually grew the most as a person in the context of that relationship. It felt really real and rich to me.
I found myself wishing that she experienced similar development in her other relationships, though. Clara tended to be highly critical, and while that totally tracked for an overachieving musician, I felt like there were some points where her behavior became toxic. I found myself wanting those moments to be addressed in more than a passing way.
In the story, Clara lists her age as fourteen and a half, but she seemed older than that. It made me wonder about the decision to set her age there instead of bumping her up to fifteen.
That said, I appreciate that this book steps into the sort of dead zone between middle grade and young adult fiction. There are a few books with main characters at fourteen, but not tons. I think the book just felt a little bit divided to me on which age group it was meant to be for. The family relationships and pursuit of music as well as the first crush elements felt more like upper middle grade. But the obsession with sexy underwear and when to have sex felt more like themes you’d see in young adult lit.
I did really enjoy the descriptions of Clara’s passion for music and her ability, and her foray into the world of competitive Scrabble.
Like I said, there were a lot of things I liked in the book, but overall, kind of a mixed bag for me. I think readers who enjoy stories about musicians or blended families could find a lot to love here.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Major characters are white.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used somewhat infrequently.
Clara is super interested in having a boy kiss her. She shops for sexy underwear and discusses how far she’d be comfortable going with a boy with one of her friends. A friend relates her own experience making out with her boyfriend with no shirts or bra.
Some stories of devastating injuries.
Clara sneaks into her parents’ bathroom and grabs a Percocet from her stepmother’s prescription bottle.
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