The Torn Skirt – Rebecca Godfrey

The Torn Skirt Desperate for guidance, for friendship, for some sign that she’s not a freak of nature, Sara has a fleeting encounter with the mysterious Justine–the girl in the torn skirt. Already acclaimed in Canada for its raw intimacy and fresh, original voice, this is a daring debut that gives voice to the profound and universal experience of teenage isolation, desire, and despair.

So that was the end of my little love affair with Dean Black. I went back inside the school and spent the rest of math class in a toilet stall, staring at my veins and reading the bad poetry on the wall. If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was always yours . Someone had scrawled over the last words, so it now read, If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, SHOOT IT.

The book feels like a gut punch sometimes. I imagined an edgy goth teen wrote it and I don’t think I was very far off!  It includes knife fights, family communes, teenage prostitution, juvenile delinquency, masturbation, drugs and attempted murder. Ok, a lot of books have these issues in them. My problem is that it all comes out of nowhere. There is no plausible reason why Sarah Shaw suddenly starts acting in the way she does. There is no build up to it. It just seems to happen rather instantly.

A teenage girl goes through all of these dark things and while not necessarily going to bodily harm, there is a lot to deal with and unpack and it might be triggering for the younger audiences.

I looked down at the dirty pattern for a few minutes, and then I looked at the wallpaper, which was all cracked, and then I looked at a leak in the ceiling letting in a line of rain. The two men kept staring at me, even though I’d never felt so ugly.

I totally identify with such an outsider and I guess many of the readers would find a sparkle here and there of this heroine that might remind them of their youth. Nerdy girl with a dark twist.

I loved and admired these books, but they seemed distant from my own world where girls were passing out in the bathroom or cutting words into their skin. I wanted to explore the lives of these girls and the very modern reality of small-town life, despite the fact that I hadn’t read such darker details in classics—and thus the moments didn’t seem proper or literary. In graduate school, I was chastised by a professor for writing about “these girls” and guided toward Katherine Mansfield for a model of a more worthy type of heroine. I persisted with “these girls” out of some stubbornness or selfishness and wrote the type of book I wanted to read but had never been able to find.

Where does this book fall short? It feels like a super intense diary, a monologue that lasts over 150 pages with a bit of dialogue splattered here and there. I wish there was more bone to the structure, not just black, dark, floppy teenage hair. It’s depressing in high doses and doesn’t yet reach the sad literary masterpiece of Sylvia Plath * The Bell Jar. The intention is to shock rather than amaze and it falls short towards the end.


About the author:

“I loved and believed the narrative of a sixteen-year-old mind—immature, abandoned, and yet exploding. It came from a heartfelt and true perception, an authentic writer’s desire. Which made it rock.” —Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth


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