Monday, January 21, 2008

Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen

In her first book, Easy, author Kerry Cohen painted a cautionary tale of a teenage girl desperately trying to find acceptance by exploiting her burgeoning teenage sexuality.

In her second book, the autobiographical 'Loose Girl,' Cohen reveals that much of her first novel was based on her own experiences growing up as an 'easy' girl.

Loose Girl is a beautifully written, uncomfortably candid memoir of adolescence in 80's and 90's New Jersey. Kerry Cohen explains how she first came to recognize the power her body had on men at a young age - and then goes on to describe how she first exploited this power and then untimately became consumed by it - all in an attempt to find the attention she so desperately craved.

Cohen is a master with the written word. Loose Girl is tautly paced, but still expressive and emotional. Given the right story - a fictional one - I think Kerry Cohen could quickly become one of the most dynamic authors of the decade.

But while her writing is pitch-perfect, the actual 'story' of Loose Girl is ultimately as unsatisfying as the one-night stands Kerry Cohen describes within it's pages.

The problem? Well, to be honest, it reads like a 224 page plea for attention. Throughout her teenage years, Kerry describes her attempts to win male attention by using her sexuality. This book, with it's rather cold and shameful litany of sexual misadventures, seems to be the literary equivalent of those adolescent fumblings.

"Read me!" The book screams. "I'm filled with illicit sexual promise!"

But turn the pages and instead of lurid language, you discover a dry list of unsatisfactory couplings stemming from Kerry Cohen's constant, burning need to be 'loved.'

She blames it on her mother, who left them to study medicine abroad. She blames it on her father, who'd rather smoke pot with her teenage friends than tell them off. The book seems to cry out for people to tell Cohen: 'There, there. It's not your fault you did these terrible things...'

Except the 'things' Cohen did aren't even considered all that terrible in today's day and age. With teenage sexuality rammed down our throat by One Tree Hill, the O.C. and even the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalogues, what would have been a 'loose girl' in Cohen's day might just be a regular 'girl' in 2008.

From discussing it with female friends, I think many women would find a lot of interesting parallels between their experiences and those of Kerry Cohen. As a male reader, I might be missing the point somewhat.

Ultimately, I found Loose Girl to be just a little too introspective and self important to really hold my interest - but I could see the quality of Cohen's writing shine through and I will be interested to see what this promising author turns her talents to next.

Loose Girl is set for release in June 2008.


Anonymous said...

I just read the book, and I can definitely see where you are coming from. The focus is very much so on all of her various affairs. However, I didn't think there was no point to it all. I was deeply affected by the book. It was like she wrote it about me, every single emotion, every motivation. And I don't think it's because you are a man, I think many women would feel the same as you. It is pretty standard for women- and men- to want to feel wanted, to go to great lengths to feel loved. But not everyone in the same deep, self destructive dangerous way as described in this book. It is pretty standard for people to sleep around, but this is not about the sex, despite the amount of sex in the book. It's about being convinced that the sex will get you something, anything, that feels like love. To have no sense of self, no hobbies, to be willing to drop everything that should matter to you for the faint possibility of love.... that is an addiction, a sickness, and I believe her goal was to reach people who were doing the same things to themselves that she did to herself. Despite all the blame she threw around in the beginning of the book, towards the end, she talks about the fact that no matter what events in her life led to this cycle, she has to be the one to break it. And she did.

I am still living my life very much like she describes her young life. And reading every single account in that book, I was able to see how unhealthy it was, how it wasn't gaining her anything, in a way that I could never fully admit to myself about my life. This may not make much sense, but the book reached me, and I feel like it could reach others in the same way. I can see how it would seem very indulgent/overkill to someone who is not in this type of desperate, self destructive cycle, but reading this was like seeing the light for the first time in years. So that has to count for something.

Anonymous said...

i myself exploited my body and mind to boys and men who only saw what they could take from me. i was a good girl. after my mother killed herself and my best friend, my rock left for college four states away, i spun out of control. by 17 i had slept with over 10 men. i contracted clamydia and yet i hadn't learned. i was stupid and filled with self-hatred and with the desperation to find love, to be loved by anyone i could find. now ive met my parallel ive come to realize what i was doing to my life. i am now going to be graduating and am dating a beautiful guy and i am experiencing real genuine love for the first time. kerry showed me the other side of me that was making me sick and tearing me down, but denial for me had always seemed stronger than the truth

Roland Hulme said...

HI Anonymous! Thanks for stopping by.

I've definitely got the impression that the book resonates powerfully with women, but not so much with men. I was probably the wrong person to review it.

They always say the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it - but I agree (about a different problem) that denial is much easier.