Pizza Girl drifts On By (a Book Review)

I read a lot. I try to get through a book a week or a comic book/manga/graphic novel in a day or two. This means I mostly read stories with “sequential art” in them. Not because I hate normal books, but I find trying to pick one out daunting if it’s not part of a series or a known author. I decided I wanted to change that and pick up all the new books I could starting with debut novel by Jean Kyuoung Frazier, Pizza Girl.

Set in the early 2010s the story follows pregnant and unsure of her future, Pizza Girl. She’s eventually given a name near the end of the book, but that doesn’t matter. She drifts through life. Lives with her Mom and boyfriend/baby daddy Billy, works at a pizza parlor, and is just dejected with what to do in the future. Everything changes when she delivers a Pickle-Pizza to Jenny, a new move in to the California neighborhood. They form an odd kinship that seems destined to either last forever or drive Pizza Girl deeper as she gets more and more lost.

The story is one of the many growing Millennial Quarter-life crisis/coming of age stories. It reminds me of Ingrand Goes West in a lot of ways with that. Though, Pizza Girl the character is one who had to drive to do anything in her life and unsure of what to do even if she wasn’t pregnant, at a dead end job, and didn’t graduate high school. It is a big help and a great choice to make this a first person narrative then. It allows us to get into her head, see where she is coming from based on the experiences both forced on her and ones she made. One example of a situation forced onto her was her father was being a consummate drunkard. Meanwhile, in her own life, she had a history of more running from problems than facing them. Like skipping class or choosing to fail assignments in school because she didn’t like them. Though they are never paired together it is clear that comes from having to group up so quickly, and now that she’s pregnant it will keep advancing leading to her not having a childhood she could be proud of and give to her own child.

As a coming of age narrative, it is a very simple and straightforward one of them. It’s not a very long story. I don’t just mean in page count, coming at at just over 190 pages, but in plot. Oddly enough though it is a book that, even as it’s substantially light on plot, could have been much longer and felt just as satisfying. Most of this first person book is told in summary. Pizza Girl will go over her day and some key events but will never dwell on them. She’ll go into details about character appearances and actions but very little dialogue. It makes sense doing it that way. She is coasting through life, so she will not spend the time dwelling on it when she retells it or narrates it back to the reader. It puts up more in her head. It makes sense. It just creates some problems.

The biggest problem this, mostly summary, approaching to telling the story is that I get very little of the tone in certain scenes. She will have conversations but since are mostly summarized I don’t get the chemistry, bonding, and depth one would get in fuller conversations. This leads to many of the characters feeling more hollow than they mean too. Her boyfriend Billy should be incredibly interesting, and has a reveal near the end that should feel bigger. Unfortunately none of that is fully established because many scenes are just glossed over. Again, that is the point, but it feels like wasted potential. Something that goes for every side-character in the story. They do their narrative job but come at the cost of being flatter for it.

However, since it is mostly written out instead of debated in text, the writing needs to be good and it is. Nothing ever gets too abstract and flowery that the point is lost, but nothing so bland and straightforward either. The world and environments are painted just enough to get a necessary enough picture to convey meaning. The bulk is, again, in summary, and those summaries do feel like full stories in themselves. The prose combines just enough detail to paint a picture and combine it with the right amount of context to get across everything it needs to. Some paragraphs do go on long, or feel like they could be chunked better, but it’s not ergregious or distracting.

The book is a compelling enough time. Pizza Girl does come alive and feels like a person you would know, but does have growing up to do. Even as the book closes it’s not a perfect arc. She is on her way to being better. Her life with her Mom and Billy is on its way to being better and with the closing lines it’s clear none of this would have gotten her to that place if she didn’t put the pickles on a pizza for Jenny, and end up falling for her in some way.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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