Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: "Girl Crazy" by Russell Smith

Justin, an unhappy teacher at a community college in Toronto, has just gotten out of a relationship with the reserved Genevieve. They're carrying on an awkward pretense at being friends when he meets Jenna, a girl in her early twenties who is having a miscarriage when he overhears her conversion on a payphone and decides to help. Justin gets her to a hospital where she will be looked after by a friend of his, a medical resident, and slips her his number before he leaves. Jenna calls a few days later and they get together for coffee. Justin is attracted to her toughness, her vulnerability, and her blatant sexuality. Justin loves women, women of all shapes and sizes. He loves their breasts, their hair, their shape, their smell. Much of the novel is devoted to Justin's descriptions of the beautiful women that he encounters.

Justin and Jenna start having a relationship- one that it sexual and raw and tumultuous. Her erratic behaviour draws him in again and again, and he can't seem to let her go. When Justin finds out one of the secrets that Jenna has been hiding, will they be able to make it work, or will that be the end of the road for them?

If I had to describe Girl Crazy in one word, it would be "intense". The whole ride is intense, and exhausting, but only in the way that something can be exhausting if it is so new to you. Jenna's world, a world of ripe sexuality and drugs and guns, is so different from the life that Justin led before he met her, yet he is inexplicably drawn to it. If I got to describe this novel in another word, it would be "dark". At times reading the book is like being exposed to the dark underbelly of humanity. Everything that your parents warned you against is in here, from the drugs to the underground poker games to the dimly lit insides of a strip club.

Reading Girl Crazy was a little like being a voyeur. We are privy to many of the thoughts that Justin has, and he has a fixation with women. We read about how he feels about women and their various parts, and we read about how the tiniest sliver of silk or a brightly coloured headband can turn him on. It was fascinating, and wasn't pornographic but rather psychological. It was like studying the inside of the stereotypical male brain.

I'm going to caution those who don't appreciate sex in their books to stay away from this one; there is lots in here. However, if you can handle that stuff, Girl Crazy is the fascinating portrait of what makes a man tick, while offering insights into the lives of those who tend to make bad decisions.

Thank-you to HarperCollins Canada for this review copy!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Anyone wanting to know more about the male psyche
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010


  1. Oh boy Jonita, I am reading this one right now and having a hard time with it. It IS a page turner, I'll give it that, but I refuse to believe that this stereotype (the sex-crazed man) is an accurate reflection of how men really are. It's one thing to look but to take advantage of a girl like Jenna like Justin does? Anyway, I'm not done yet, so we'll see if my view changes.

  2. I'll be interested in reading this one, Jonita. It sounds compelling. And my question is an off-shoot of the other poster's statement: Do you think the book is an accurate reflection of men, or do you think the male author was using this protag in order to make his novel stand out from the rest?

  3. Rebbie, what an interesting question! I would say that I see the book as being an exaggerated reflection of men. I know that there are some men who are turned on by every glimpse of a woman, or just by the glimpse of the body part that they find the sexiest. I was out with my husband and his friend on the weekend and his friend commented on almost every attractive woman who walked by. It was eye-opening for me, because my husband is far more respectful in the fact that he doesn't comment very often about the women that he sees. So, I think that there are men out there like that, BUT that there are also men who are attracted to women not only for their appearances but for their personality and mind as well. At least I hope so! I think that Justin was one version of a man, albeit an immature one.

  4. I definitely get the "intense" vibe just from your review! Not sure if I could handle this one... I'm not a prude, but blatant sexuality in novels -- and other questionable behavior -- is sometimes too much for me!