I can't even remember, in my current distracted state, whether the ages on the side of this blog are even accurate anymore. As I write this, Diana is 17 and Chestnut is 15 (as ever, these are their chosen aliases), so things have moved quite a bit from when I started writing this blog and railing against The Runaway Bunny.
Now the only reading influence I wield is by either recommending something, which basically ensures they will never, ever read it, or by reading something myself, which makes it fairly likely that Chestnut will steal it while I am right in the middle.
But the thing is, here's what I was reading the most recent time this happened.
And if you don't want to know what this book is about, you can stop reading now.
This is a novel about the girls who surrounded Charles Manson. Yup. I brought it with me on vacation, and it is really really good, which means, given its subject matter, that it is also really really upsetting. The author is quite painfully honest about what it feels like to suddenly have this strange sexual power that isn't exactly power—or at least, that's not power you can control. She writes with horrible wince-worth clarity about being the subject of the gaze (sorry, I hate that phrase but it is inescapable here). Oh yeah, and throw in some rape, abuse, and murder while you're at it.
But the thing is, Chestnut stole it from me. And read it.
It's not that I wouldn't allow her to read something this harsh and upsetting. It's just that…it's painful to watch. Do I question my choices? Constantly. But she came and talked to me after she finished reading it.
"I read The Girls."
"That's an upsetting book," I oh-so-casually observed.
She agreed, and said, "But you know, I really understood her. I especially understood her rage, how she felt so angry at all those people looking at her all the time."
And that is what she took from it. Not megalomania. Not cults. Not drugs. She recognized in the writing the rage.
Do I recommend this book to other 15-year-old girls? Not really. It's incredibly harsh. The writing is great, but sometimes shows off too much.
But I am so glad Chestnut read it—that I got to talk to her, for that one moment, about the weird and horrible difficulty. As far as I know, all girls are subject to this the moment they are considered teenage girls: being looked at in this terrible proprietary way. And being in an almost constant state of rage as a result, much of which is crushed down and turned against themselves.
So maybe you could read it. Or your daughter. Or your son? I don't know, honestly, but—I'm glad we did.