I found the debut YA novel from Sara Zarr, the author of "Sweethearts" , incredibly depressing and sad - not to say it's a terrible book; it's just very real and it never lets up. The main character, Deanna made a mistake at the young and vulnerable age of 13. Three years later, she pays for that mistake everyday in the form snide remarks and even cruel harassment from kids in school. Then she goes home to the heartbreak of her father's indifference and disappointment.
"Story of a Girl" begins on the last day of Deanna's sophomore year and ends with the start of the new school year. The summer job at the pizza shop provides some modicum of comfort - but this is no Sarah Dessen novel (I love Sarah Dessen, it's not a dig on her as an author). Pacifica may be only 20 minutes from San Francisco, but it could be any small town in the United States. Zarr, a native of the town, describes a world of constant damp fog and desolate strip malls, much of the population seems to work at chain stores for minimum wage. I know I found "Story of a Girl" more depressing due to the similarities of my own small town and smaller high school.
Readers should not expect a childhood/teenage love story like "Sweethearts", it's not as pure as that. All the relationships are complicated by Deanna's past or current actions (again, very true to life). She feels like a constant fuck-up, and I think its fair to say the resolutions at the end won't be enough for some readers. I would never consider "Story of a Girl" a comfort read in the standard sense of the term, but without a doubt reading Deanna's struggles could comfort girls who've ended up in similar positions.