cover image Blueprints for Building Better Girls

Blueprints for Building Better Girls

Elissa Schappell. Simon & Schuster, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7670-2

This raw and engaging collection, Schappell's second (after Use Me), follows a cast of girls and women as they navigate relationships with each other, their mothers, and men across several decades. The strongest stories are those about gutsy girls who aren't "afraid to throw the trick," as one character's gymnastics coach describes her in "Out of the Blue and into the Black." Schappell endeavors to show the complex vulnerabilities behind some of the choices made by girls casually judged as sluts, as in "Monsters of the Deep" and "I'm Only Going to Tell You This Once," and this is where she is at her best; less successful, by comparison, are the more diffuse stories that depict the dynamics between mothers and daughters, wives and husbands. Each story adds new perspectives of characters or events chronicled earlier in the book, allowing Schappell to create a bigger, more textured and complicated world than is usually found in collections. This, combined with the energy of the writing and the dark wit of these characters, will endear the book to Schappell's audience and fans of Lorrie Moore and Maile Meloy. (Sept.)