Buy Girl On The Other Side
Special $7.97 (Regular price: $10.99)
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Reviewer: Melissa on January 7, 2011
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Tabby Freeman and Lora Froggett may go to the same high school, but they exist on opposite sides of the social spectrum. Tabby might be pretty, rich, and the most popular girl in school, but she has secrets that are tearing apart her “perfect” life. On the bottom of the social ladder, Lora is shy, smart, and the continual target of bullying. While she’s struggles to make her way through life at school, she’s increasingly anxious that someone – a teacher or student – will learn the secret about what’s going on with her family. While Tabby and Lora seem really different, they both share secrets that are tearing them apart. When a series of events causes their lives to become intertwined and their secrets to be revealed publicly, will they be destroyed or saved?
Told in alternating, first person narration on specific days over a four month period, Girl On The Other Side is a powerful novel, which takes a penetrating look at people at both ends of the high school social strata. Whereas many YA novels about high school life and bullying stick to a single person’s perspective on the subject, usually the individual who is facing constant bullying from his or her peers, Deborah Kerbel‘s decision to look beyond this particular story enriches the reading experience.
Both of these girls recognize the pain that the other is facing, however, because of their places in the social sphere of school, they only think to themselves about what they witness. Tabby doesn’t usually participate in the constant bullying that Lora faces everyday, but she judges her. She thinks if only Lora would wash her hair more often and stood up for herself, she’d receive much less harassment from the other students. Similarly, Lora’s intimate knowledge of hiding her pain and sadness makes it easy to spot the same despair in Tabby for one brief moment. Rather than attempt to connect with her enemy, Lora looks away because “[h]er pain is so ugly, raw, and familiar” and secretly wonders what the richest and most poplar girl in school could know about despair (63). Anyone who has ever been a teen in either Tabby or Lora’s position will identify with not only their experiences, but also their reactions to seeing another girl in pain.
Stepping into another person’s perspective is hard. Other than through reading, we – as human beings – are socialized to connect with people who are “like” us. For teen girls, this issue is even more pronounced because, generally speaking, they’re still developing a sense of self and standing up to the ring leader would only mean that the bullying would be directed in your direction. While Kerbel illustrates this complex social structure with a keen eye for the details, she also demonstrates that one’s perspective on someone who is outside your social circle can be flawed. For example, Lora assumes that nothing could be wrong in Tabby’s life, but the reader already knows intimately that this is far from the truth. At the same time, Kerbel portrays a way that the social ladder can be breached, and in so doing, demonstrates that sometimes the people who understand us best may not be “like” us in the traditional sense.
I would highly recommend GirlOnTheOtherSide to teen and adult readers alike. In short, anyone who has ever been bullied, bullied someone else, or thought that the bullying of others was wrong will be moved by Kerbel’s story.
Buy Girl On The Other Side today!