“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” by Phoebe Gloeckner

This book is kind of a downer, but at the same time, it made me feel grateful. It’s the tale of a 15-year-old girl who becomes sexually involved with her mother’s boyfriend, which causes a downward spiral of addiction, mental illness, and self-loathing. As a parent, I am so very grateful that none of my daughters got this messed up.

What I really liked about this book is the way the author mixed mediums. While it is written in the form of a diary, it reads like a novel. In addition, the author included her own drawings, snippets of graphic novel style panel illustrations, and letters written by the characters. So it felt like a blend of novel, diary, graphic novel, and epistolary. For me, that is the book’s strongest asset.

As a regular journal writer, I connected with a scene where Minnie (the protagonist) ponders whether her journal writing is an act of creative expression.

Let’s take a little time out and be completely serious for a moment—my writing in this book has become a sort of habit, and a good one. I do think my writing has improved because of it. Would you or would you not consider this journal a creative endeavor?

(p. 65)

Personally, I consider any act of self-expression to be a creative endeavor. Journal writing, especially if one is exploring the deeper parts of the self, is definitely a creative act. Additionally, any practice that one gets writing hones the skill of crafting the written word.

One of the effects of addiction on a person is a deep feeling of isolation. Throughout the book, Gloeckner captures that feeling in beautifully sad words.

I left feeling like the center of the ocean, deep and quiet. Glowing particles of dust or old dead fish atoms slowly filter down from the top through the water. The sun gradually leaves them. They settle down later at the bottom, seven miles below. Dark. Heavy, heavy water.

(p. 107)

As much as this book is disturbing, it does end on a more optimistic note. Without giving away too much, Minnie ends her diary by deciding to start a new one, which reflects the start of a new chapter in her life.

This diary is almost full. The binder rings can barely hold another few pages but I didn’t get a new diary binder yet. Maybe I’ll go downtown to Patrick’s…they probably have a nice serious-looking black binder with heavy-duty rings that won’t burst open. That’s what I want. I want to get a good one.

I haven’t been writing at all because I’ve been waiting to start a new diary. A brand-new diary is like a brand-new life, and I’m ready to leave this one behind me. But since I don’t have a new binder, it’s just too bad: I’ll have to tack a few pages onto my old life.

(p. 285)

Our lives are stories that are being written every moment, and at the risk of sounding cliché, we can change the story or turn the page any time we want. That is the beauty of life and one of the things that gave me hope in my personal dark periods.

Thanks for stopping by, and have an inspired day.

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4 Comments

Filed under Literature

4 responses to ““The Diary of a Teenage Girl” by Phoebe Gloeckner

  1. Hi Jeff, I’m always wary about books with this kind of triggering content. I’m reminded of Ancient Light by Banville in which a boy has an affair with the mother of his friend, who is twice his age. While the book is wonderfully written I could not stop thinking how disgusted I would be if the genders were reversed here. Is the damage to girls greater than to boys? I have no idea.
    Anyway, sorry about bringing this up. Just some random thoughts in the morning…
    Monika

    • Good morning, Monika. You make a great point. In fact, I had noted a section in the book where the girl comments on a young boy having sexual relations with an older woman and how disgusted she is by it. It was a reversal of the usual gender stereotyping and I was tempted to include it in the post, but didn’t. As far as damage, there is probably damage to both boys and girls in that situation, although different. Possible that some of the continued abuse of young girls by older men is the result of suppressed pain from that type of relationship. Too much to think about this early. But as always, thanks for your thoughtful comment!!

  2. This is interesting, Jeff. I appreciate visiting your blog, as you introduce new (to me) and wonderful works. Journal-writing is a worthy creative and (self)evolutionary practice. I remember a time in my own life when it was unsafe even to journal, and how liberating it was, years later, to resume that practice. These things also stir up ingrained conditioning around ‘isms’ as much as they might reveal bona fide unhealthy or toxic patterns, and it’s always a good thing to have the former come into conscious awareness. Thanks, as ever, for sharing this one.

    • Hi Jamie. So glad you found the post interesting. My daughter had suggested the book to me after she read it. As a man and a father, it’s important that I understand the challenges that face young women in our society. Wishing you all the best.

      Jeff

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