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Girl Stories
posted June 8, 2007


Creator: Lauren R. Weinstein
Publishing Information: Henry Holt, soft cover, 240 pages, 2006, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 0805078630 (ISBN10)

imageLauren Weinstein's 2006 entry into the confessional memoir genre and one of the more anticipated books from a young cartoonist I can remember in terms of people wanting to see it at the time of its release turned out to be a very charming book, with a distinct visual imprimatur. Weinstein details several months in her life during that period of adolescence when self-definition demands multiple, trustworthy mirrors: family a bit, friends a lot, a peer group perhaps even more than your actual friends, and, if you're lucky, a boyfriend or girlfriend. Weinstein's take on the time period is different than most artists: she lives in the mainstream of folks that fall between the popular table and the kids that eat by themselves on a bench outside, and she's completely, hilariously self-aware that her actions in trying to negotiate the social morass in front of her frequently fail, and that her behavior can fall somewhere between wretched and unforgivable.

Girl Stories includes comics done over the first three and last two years of a seven-year period. It appears as if most appeared on-line as stand-alone works. The reason why Weinstein's book failed to make a greater impression, I think, is that it seem suspended uncomfortably between an extended meditation and a bunch of loosely assembled shorts. It might have been a smoother ride had the book featured either more strongly defined set pieces or displayed a greater sense of narrative momentum and build. Doing neither does allow Girl Stories to remain closer to its source material in terms of a reading experience. Girl Stories unfolds in semi-scattered fashion reminiscent of picking up the journal of a young teen and trying to make sense of it, turning it over and over in your hands. The problem is that doing neither increases the degree of difficulty exponentially; if you're going to present different kinds of stories there needs to be pitch-perfect tone, or a rigorous approach, or something that connects it in a way that's felt in the gut of the person experiencing it and not just read on the cover. I've gone through the book three times and my impression on leaving it each time lingered on the lovely color and Weinstein's expressive cartooning more than it did anything said or intended. Although I'm not certain I remember much more of the comparative period in my life, I wanted something just a bit more substantial out of re-visiting someone else's.