Review: just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth


Title: just_a_girl

Author: Kirsten Krauth

Published: UWA Publishing June 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 24 to 25, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:
just_a_girl is the screen name of the precocious and provocative fourteen year old Layla. For Layla, school is uninteresting, her mum is lame, her father absent and she amuses herself by exploring her budding sexuality with her boyfriend, random strangers and a much older man she identifies as Mr C.

Layla’s behaviour can be confronting but it is characterised by the expected turmoil of adolescence as she explores versions of herself and tries to make sense of the power she both has, and lacks. This unusual novel is described as a ‘Puberty Blues for the digital age’ and there is some truth to that. Layla submits to Davo’s casual misogyny, agrees to meet a much older stranger in a hotel and records a lascivious video for Mr. C which she posts on YouTube yet she is deeply distressed by her boss’s groping. just_a_girl highlights the trials of sexual awakening for Layla in the modern age and illustrates her ambiguity towards sexual activity and what it means in the context of her relationships with men and herself.

But just_a_girl is divided into three narratives, that of Layla and also her mother, Margot, and Tadashi, a lonely Japanese man who crosses paths with Layla on her daily train journey, whose accounts emphasise Krauth’s themes of isolation and disconnection.

Since her husband left after confessing his homosexuality a decade before, Margot has suffered bouts of depression and her self esteem has never recovered. In recent years the evangelism of the Riverlay church and its charismatic pastor has offered her a refuge but also kept her from facing her issues. Margot’s italicised narrative reveals her loneliness, her disconnection from her daughter and her own sexual confusion as she develops a crush on Pastor Bevan.

Tadashi is a young Japanese man, alone since the death of his mother and too shy to seek the relationship he desperately wants. He turns to the net and purchases a Japanese Love doll – a lifelike mannequin he names Mika, as a companion, a ‘girl’ that looks vaguely like Layla who he sees on his daily train journey.
Honestly, while I understand the thematic connection, I think the book could have done without Tadashi’s storyline. In and of itself it’s an interesting vignette and would make a fine short story on the themes, but I feel it distracts from, rather than enhances, Layla and Margot’s stories.

Though teenage Layla is the primary narrator this book is intended for an adult audience and I would recommend it particularly for the parents of pre teen and teenage girls curious, or concerned, about the ways in which their daughter relates to today’s world. just_a_girl is an honest, gritty and thought provoking story about sex, power, loneliness and the desire to connect meaningfully with another soul.

Click here to learn more about just_a_girl in the guest post Kirsten Krauth contributed to Book’d Out earlier today.

just_a_girl is available to purchase

@UWA Publishing @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia

via Booko

Pre-order @Amazon


8 thoughts on “Review: just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth

  1. This sounds disturbing, but somewhat enlightening. I could imagine enjoying the thematic undertones you describe and I like the idea of a story in three sides.


  2. Great review, Shellyrae, although I disagree with you about Tadashi. For me his story added depth to the themes of the book, and also provided a gentle respite – in a narrative sense – from Layla’s ‘noise’ and Margot’s stream of consciousness.

    As the parent of a young girl, there were aspects of just_a_girl that scared the hell out of me. But despite the tough subject matter, I thought it was a great read.

    I look forward to more from Kirsten Krauth.


    1. Thanks Angela, my daughters are 17 and 10 so I agree it is a scary premise for mothers.
      I can see your point with regards to Tadashi’s storyline. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂


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