Title: A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing
Author: Jessie Tu
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Mental health, Music
Dates read: 11th – 22nd June 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
5th sentence, 74th page: He smiles and opens it.
Jena Chung plays the violin. She was once a child prodigy and is now addicted to sex. She’s struggling a little. Her professional life comprises rehearsals, concerts, auditions and relentless practice; her personal life is spent managing family demands, those of her creative friends, and lots of sex. Jena is selfish, impulsive and often behaves badly, though mostly only to her own detriment. And then she meets Mark – much older and worldly-wise – who bewitches her. Could this be love?
When Jena wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic, she thinks the life she has dreamed of is about to begin. But when Trump is elected New York changes irrevocably, and Jena along with it. Is the dream over? With echoes of Frances Ha, Jena’s favourite film, truths are gradually revealed to her. Jena comes to learn that there are many different ways to live and love and that no one has the how-to guide for any of it – not even her indomitable mother.
A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing unflinchingly explores the confusion of having expectations upturned, and the awkwardness and pain of being human in our increasingly dislocated world – and how, in spite of all this, we still try to become the person we want to be. It is a dazzling, original and astounding debut from a young writer with a fierce, intelligent and fearless new voice.
I was expecting a bit more of an uplifting journey when I read the blurb for this book. It’s not a happy book. It’s not uplifting and it probably won’t help you find meaning in your life. What this book is – is amazing. It is impossible to forget, impossible to put down and very, very difficult to get out of your mind. Tu manages to take you on a journey that will have you squirming and questioning all of your assumptions. It will make you seriously think about not only our own actions, but the actions of others. And it will make you reflect on your own relationships and childhood, and the scars that have been left behind…
About halfway through this book, I had to pause and take a breath, put it aside for a little while. There were a few emotions that Jen experienced that were just a little too close to home. And a few moments when I was genuinely fearful for her surviving into the future. I was so quickly attached to this character, that eve though she makes multiple bad decisions throughout this story, I really, really couldn’t handle the idea of anything bad actually happening to her. Hence, the having to take a break a few times and pick up a lighter, fluffier book. It’s been a very long time since a book has had the ability to make me feel this strongly. This quickly.
Although I was constantly fearful for Jen throughout this story, it did end in a much better place than I had expected. It wasn’t a happily ever after moment, which I really don’t think would have suited this story in the slightest, but it was a great, optimistic for the future ending. You finish with hope that the future will be better and that Jena would be able to find her own Zen and happily ever after moment. It creates a great coming-of-age story that happens a little later in life and is a little darker than you would normally expect. But that ending… if just gives you so much hope. Even for all of the tragedies that you experience in your own life.
This may not be a happy, chirpy coming of age story. But it is one that we all need to read. It is powerful, intense and fills your head and heart with information and feelings. Feelings that I really wasn’t expecting. Tu has managed to create a world that we all know on some level, a lead character who is drastically flawed, but impossible not to get attached to. And a narrative that will leave you in awe. Definitely a book that I will be suggesting to others and rereading.