Friday, April 18, 2008
Girlbomb (rhymes with Erlbaum)
I read and reviewed Janice Erlbaum's second book and memoir late last year compliments of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. Erlbaum's publisher was kind enough to offer readers of the advanced edition a copy of her first book which I accepted eagerly.
Girlbomb is also a memoir, about Erlbaum's teenage years. To say they were turbulent would be an understatement. Erlbaum leaves home at age 15 due to a violent stepfather and a mother that continues to put her well-being after his. Living in Brooklyn, she heads to a shelter in NYC. Life there is no picnic either. Erlbaum is harassed due to her minority status and life with a bunch of teenage girls is difficult enough, let alone troubled ones. Erlbaum continues to attend school during this time, but continues down a troubling path. I certainly did some things during my teenage years that were pretty, well, stupid, but never in my wildest imagination did I think of living life as Erlbaum did. Drugs, alcohol, sex - this was a girl looking for attention. As a parent, naturally, this is all very disturbing and definitely sends the message not to stop parenting when your child is a teenager as it seems Erlbaum's mother did.
In many ways I'm glad I read her second book first - because I would have been worried about her well-being after this first book. Of course, we know that Erlbaum is now well - she's a published author, after all. Erlbaum's writing is truly compelling. I find her writing very conversational. This is not an easy book to read - by turns disturbing, dramatic, frightening, crass, yet also hopeful. It is a testament to her writing that you want to keep reading at all. That is no mistake, I think. Erlbaum's writing probably saved her from another sort of life, another path she could easily have chosen. I look forward to what else she has to say, about herself or on another topic.