Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin


big girl small

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin ISBN: 9780374112578

Plot Summary: Judy Lohden has big dreams and a big, beautiful singing voice. She is also three feet, nine inches tall. At first, she can’t wait to start school at her local performing arts high school. At first, it seems great. She befriends Sarah, a goth girl, but also Ginger, a pretty and popular classmate. Then she meets Jeff, a handsome and popular senior and their friendship eventually turns into something more. So why is she hiding out in a seedy motel, afraid to turn on the TV or answer the knocks at her door? Judy achingly recounts the scandal that forced her to run away, and tries to plan for the next stage of her life, whatever that is.

Critical Evaluation: Judy is an easy character to like. She is smart, and funny, witty and sardonic. She starts out with an almost irrepressible confidence, and then your heart breaks to see how she has lost it. Perhaps most importantly, she really sounds like a teen to me. She feels coddled by her parents and intense emotions all of the time. Her attempt to climb the social ladder at Darcy Academy means that she trails along her truer friend, Sarah, while pursuing a friendship with Ginger, the popular girl Judy believes she is really meant to be friends with.   And when she runs away from home she does exactly what I think I would have done: eats junk food, avoids people, and stares at the walls of her room thinking about how everything could have been different.

Her voice and the book’s language ultimately ring authentic, although this is another instance where the main character is just a little too intelligent and witty. Right from the get-go, her narration of the story shows that she is smarter than me, funnier than me, and definitely knows her stuff better than me. I love her little rant about the Wizard of Oz and the munchkins that did not even get credited individually. But then when she talks to Jeff and Ginger, you can see how, no matter how funny and eloquent she is in her head, Judy is still a teenager who struggles to say just the right thing. In that way, her voice brings me closer to her as a character. And, as an audiobook, the narrator is fantastic. She captures all the sarcasm and wit of Judy, and still sounds mostly like a teenager.

Reader’s Annotation: Why would a girl with a beautiful singing voice and infectious spirit be hiding out in a dingy hotel room? Maybe it has something to do with the scandal that is rocking her high school, and the national media, and the fact that she is three feet, nine inches tall.

Information about the author: Rachel DeWoskin is the author of “Big Girl Small,” “Repeat after me,” and “Babes in Beijing.” She has also written essays and articles for Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times Magazine of London, Teachers and Writers, and Conde Nast Traveler. Her poetry has been published in journals including Ploughshares, Seneca Review, New Delta Review, Nerve Magazine and The New Orleans Review.

She currently teaches memoir and fiction at the University of Chicago. She divides her time between Chicago and Beijing, living with her husband and two daughters. “Big Girl Small” won an Alex Award. “Repeat after me” won a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award.

Genre: Adult Crossover, Realistic Fiction, Audiobook

Curriculum ties, if any: This book promotes understanding and compassion, and would also certainly spark some good discussion in a literature class.

Booktalking Ideas: Since leaked sex tapes and images from sexting are a hot topic right now, that might be a way to entice teens to read this book. I would also want to highlight how funny it is, and how relatable Judy is, despite how teens may initially feel very different from her.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  This title was originally written for adults, but with the 16 year old main character, it has obvious appeal for teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Sexual situations
  • Drug use

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

In a way, this book serves as sort of a cautionary tale about putting too much trust in others. In this age of sexting and videos going viral, this particular situation has certainly happened before, and it will probably happen again. This book can serve readers on multiple levels, in that it deals with a sex scandal, and a little person who has been ostracized for her size. People will identify with both of these characteristics, and better understand people in both situations for having read this book.

Why did you include this book? : This fits the bill for an adult crossover that will appeal to teens, and is a well written and entertaining book.

Reference Page:

DeWoskin, R. (2013). About page.  Rachel DeWoskin website. Retrieved from

Rachel DeWoskin author page.  Goodreads. Retrieved from


One response »

  1. Pingback: Alphabetical List of Titles | let's talk about that book...

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