Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Review: Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier

Some books make you feel young. Some make you feel every bit of your age. Some are light hearted and delightful. And some are heavy and darkly depressing. I didn't expect light hearted and delightful from Jean Kyoung Frazier's Pizza Girl given the premise but I didn't expect the heavy, every bit your age feeling either. Unfortunately that's what I got.

Pizza Girl (unnamed until quite late in the novel) is 18 and pregnant. She lives with her mother and her boyfriend and works at a local pizza joint. She is ambivalent about having a baby, is unhappy at work, feels smothered by her loved ones, worries how she is similar to her late father, an alcoholic, and is just drifting through life. She spends a lot of her time avoiding the boyfriend who has given up his college dream to be with her and raise their upcoming child, sneaking out to her dad's locked shed where she sits and drinks and thinks. Then one Wednesday a woman calls the pizza place and orders a pizza with pickles. Our pizza girl delivers this odd order, quickly becoming obsessed with Jenny Hauser, a housewife who seems to be as discontented as Pizza Girl herself. This unexpected attraction to Jenny takes over Pizza Girl's life, as she imagines them into a deeper friend relationship than they actually have.

The angst oozes from this coming of age novel like hot cheese on pizza. It is a character study, ruminative and moody, and there's little plot to hang the story on. Pizza Girl makes mistake after mistake, moping about and refusing to make a change towards claiming her own happiness. Jenny is lonely but that makes it no less odd and slightly creepy that she invites this unknown young girl to hang around with her and to babysit her child. None of the characters besides Pizza Girl come alive at all and since she's such a depressed and aimless character, it makes for a frustrating reading experience although those who like intentionally quirky novels might find it more engaging than I did.

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