Title: Stealing Parker
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: October 1, 2012
After her family's scandal rocks their conservative small town, Parker goes overboard trying to prove that she won't turn out like her mother: a lesbian who runs off with her girlfriend. The all-star third baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds, and starts making out with guys. A lot of guys. But hitting on the new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far, especially when he starts flirting back.
Stealing Parker is a refreshingly realistic contemporary novel, a well-written glimpse into the many complications and struggles a teenage girl faces. Parker faces a number of struggles, but the most important one from what I could see is her struggle with God, her complaints and her anger over how her life changed when her mother came out.
To be honest, to me, Parker sounds like a liar, or at least someone who deflects blame so none of it sticks to them. All the blame is on her mother for leaving and revealing that she's a lesbian, and on God for taking her mother away and changing her whole world. She reminds me of Sam from Janet Gurtler's Who I Kissed, another girl who couldn't move on from the troubles in her life. Of course, their situations are different, Sam takes on all the blame while Parker pushes it onto others, but they couldn't see two feet in front of their faces, they couldn't move past that fact that, while one thing was different, everything else was the same. They still had family, still had friends, but it was that one event that stopped their lives and became an insurmountable mountain.
Parker decides to change her life, but is it for the best? She puts the blame squarely on God for taking away what he's given her, but placing blame is never a good idea, whether it's on God or another person. She can blame God all she wants, but Parker has to live with the changes she's made and accept that things are different or she won't move forward.
By quitting the softball team, Parker hopes to not be branded a lesbian. This kind of stereotyping bothers me, but that fact that it bothers me shows how close contemporary novels are to real life. There are stereotypes of lesbians liking sports, or drums or shop class like in Karen Bass' Drummer Girl, and it's upsetting that there are teenage girls out there who cave and give up the things they love. No one deserves to be labelled something they aren't just because they like a certain thing. It's sad that Parker caves to the rumours, that she wasn't strong enough to push past them and keep on playing, but if she had this book wouldn't exist. This book is all about her regaining that strength she lost.
Going around kissing almost every guy in school might stop the lesbian rumours, but it makes Parker seem flighty and vapid, an immature girl who'd hiding from the truth. It's clear she's smart, given her grades and early admission, but being a quitter and a kisser makes her an unreliable and unfavourable narrator when the book begins.
At the heart of the book is Parker's struggle through high school, her trying to figure out the world when her brother has issues, her dad has given up, her mom isn't there, the church preaches at her, her former friends continue to spew forth slander and lies, her current friends and possible crushes. Always at the heat of contemporary YA is teenagers working to figure out how the world works, how to carve out their spot and move forward on that path. Here, it's very obvious that Parker is trying whatever she can to figure things out, and could possibly try anything.
(I received an advance copy of this book from Raincoast Books.)