“Cheesecake, jailbait, sex kitten” -the very words seemed to be “doors opening” to a splendid new self. But from the moment she decides to lose her virginity and reels in her prey, a “full-grown man,” fourteen-year-old Kathy is headed for trouble. One cold, raw March night some months later, parked in a car with four boys on the outskirts of her small suburban town, she finds it.
Though she could never have foreseen the outcome of that night, the “boys in the car could just as well have been Gypsies foretelling my future,” she writes. Girls who break the rules in small towns like the one she lived in are expected to pay a very high price for their transgressions – and she did.
And yet… this young girl, as scrappy a protagonist as any in our literature, manages to transform her fate. The story of how she came to be in that car, and how she stepped out of it forever altered, to be sure, yet not forever damaged, is the theme of this extraordinary coming-of-age tale.
This was such a sad story, but so understandable. I ached for this girl who had such a gut wrenching need to be loved for herself, and who went about finding that love in the wrong ways with the wrong people. I understood her need to be who she wanted to be, and the claustrophobia she felt when she saw the “type” that many around her expected her to be. That this created friction in her family that eventually deteriorated into volatility was unsurprising, as was her search for acceptance among peers…not realizing at the time that those to whom she turned would damage her in ways she could not imagine. What does seem somewhat surprising (to me) is the short amount of time it took for her to really hit bottom. You don’t envision that situations like what Dobie described can develop so fast…but they can, and the fallout is enormous. Twenty plus years later, the effects are still apparent. What is comforting here is that she survived without more damage…and that, even at age 15, she understood that she could change her life, and set about to do so.