________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 20 . . . . June 10, 2005


Something Girl. (Orca Soundings).

Beth Goobie.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
105 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-347-8.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Karen Rankin.

**** /4


He didn't say anything, just watched me go past him and down the hall. When he got like this quiet and staring it was the worst. Anything could happen anything.

But tonight he just watched me. Quiet as anything, I walked past him and into my room. I didn't close my door because that would make him mad. I got straight into bed without undressing. Then I lay there in the dark, trying to listen past the pounding of my heart.

I couldn't hear anything. This meant he could still be standing in his doorway, listening. Or he could have gone back to bed. Or he could be right outside my door, waiting to see if I made any noise. Whatever I did now, I couldn't make any noise. It was important to be absolutely quiet. I couldn't roll over. I couldn't breathe heavily.

I had to be quiet, quiet, QUIET. I had to pee like crazy. I'd drunk two pops at the dance, which was stupid. Stupid, no good, nothing girl. I should have known better than to drink anything. Now I was going to have to hold it all night.

Was he out there listening?

Quiet, I had to be quiet.

Beth Goobie's Something Girl is the powerful story of 15-year-old Sophie, the "stupid, no good, nothing girl." The novel begins with Sophie's being "dumped" by her boyfriend of three months. This does nothing to improve her already poor self-image. Physically abused by her father, she lives in nearly constant fear. She believes that her beatings are her own fault. "My Dad only hits me when I'm bad." While she's having some trouble with school and she's been caught for petty theft, she really wants to be good. She wants to make her dad love her: she just can't figure out how. Sophie's mom, also a victim of her husband's abuse, has withdrawn emotionally, leaving Sophie to wonder why her dad hates her and her mom doesn't talk to her anymore. A concerned teacher and social worker just pose more problems for Sophie. She knows that if people ask too many questions, her father will have to answer their queries. Once he's done that with a good show of normalcy he'll be sure to deal with Sophie, and possibly her mother, in a brutal manner. Sophie may not consciously know it, but she is striving for a change in her circumstances. Some part of her seems to realize that her life has become completely untenable. She can't seem to hide the signs of her abuse. In fact, despite her certainty of reprisal, she seems almost to be drawing attention to the signs of her father's beatings: "Sophie," Ms. Lee said softly. "Why do you have your hand over your arm?" I looked at my arm. My hand was hanging onto the bottom of my sleeve, pulling it down over the bruise. Luckily, Sophie has a true and caring friend in 12-year-old Jujube. Jujube knows the truth behind all of Sophie's bruises. She also believes in aliens and the value of help from "outsiders." One of Jujube's neighbours, Rick, attends Sophie's high school. While Sophie is too insecure even to look Rick in the eye, Jujube has no such inhibitions. She gets Rick talking with Sophie about a number of things, including his friend's life in a group home, the most obvious but unknown, hence frightening escape for Sophie. With Jujube's help, Something Girl comes to a satisfyingly hopeful as well as realistic conclusion. Sophie goes from being the "stupid, no good, nothing girl," to "the Something girl. SomeONE."

     Despite her desperation, low self-esteem, and pathetically hopeless loyalty to her father, one feels more than just pity for Sophie. Her grit, as well as her sensitivity to her mother and Jujube, are admirable. The reader is given enough detail to feel that Sophie is very real. Similarly, Goobie, using few, but masterfully chosen, words, paints realistic pictures of Sophie's mother, father, best friend, and the few peripheral characters in the novel. Author Goobie is very open about her own traumatic childhood during which she suffered serious emotional and physical abuse. Goobie's dire background lends tremendous strength and veracity to Sophie's voice. Something Girl is so compelling that this reader couldn't put it down until finished.

     This contemporary story told in the first person, past tense is published as part of Orca's hi-lo "Soundings" series for reluctant readers ages 12 plus. As such, the protagonist's short (100-page) story is told simply with only two other, minor, story 'threads.'

Highly Recommended.

Karen Rankin is a Toronto writer and editor of children's stories.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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