The Ghosts of Shaina Past and Present*: The Girls & Break in Case of Emergency

August 30, 2016

I recently read two books that most struck me because they reminded me of, well, me. This is not to say they weren't good on their own meritsbut the reasons they will ultimately stick with me are entirely selfish.

The Ghost of Shaina Past - The Girls by Emma Cline

If you haven't been living under a book-barren rock, you've seen The Girls making the rounds all summer. Loosely based on the history of Charles Manson and his "family," Cline's debut follows Evie Boyd. Lonely and utterly starved for attention, Evie finds herself enthralled by Suzanne, who appears to be everything Evie isn't: cool, composed, and securely enmeshed in a gaggle of young people whose love for each other is only outshone by their love for their leader, Russell. Anyone somewhat familiar with the story of the Manson family knows what's to come.

I was astounded (and a little bit embarrassed) by how much I related to Evie at that age. All I wanted was for someone to pay attention to me, romantically or otherwise, and I didn't mind erasing my own personality to make it happen. Add to this the fact that I had no idea who I was in my teens (do many of us, really?), and this was a recipe for vying for mainly the wrong kinds of attention.

Kerry said she also related to Cline's spot-on writing about being a lonely teen. Thankfully, our own quests for approval never led us to join any murderous cults.

The Ghost of Shaina Present - Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter

Life's a little less than stellar for Jen these days. Believing she isn't talented enough to make it in the art world, she's taken a series of lackluster jobs, the latest of which is at a celebrity-backed nonprofit ostensibly devoted to empowering women across the globe but mainly concerned with generating lofty vision statement after lofty vision statement. She pines for the happiness she sees in the lives of her best friends, Meg and Pam, and for an end to her and her husband's trips to the local fertility clinic. 

Break in Case of Emergency is the portrait of a woman who doesn't know how to stand up for herself. Jen's workplace signature is her cushion-laugh: it has mass, but it's "plush mass, deferential mass, a comfy cushion to soften any demand or contradictory opinion." I tend toward social anxiety and conflict-aversion, and watching Jen try to navigate the indifference of her coworkers and be unable to assert herself even among her closest friends reminded me so much of myself on my hardest days. 

Toward the end of the story, Jen is finally beginning to value herself (I won't spoil it, but this is a light read, at the end of the day), and it gives me hope that I can continue to grow into the self-assured badass I know lives inside of me.

The Ghost of Shaina Yet to Come - ???

I don't know which book represents my future, but I'm pretty sure it will be an awesome read. Anyone have any ideas for me?

*Y'all should know that I had this stuck in my head the entire time I was writing this post. You're welcome.

What are some books that remind you of past, current, or future(?!) versions of yourself?

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