True Confessions Of A Heartless Girl Paperback – Oct 1 2002
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No wonder True Confessions of a Heartless Girl won the 2002 Governor General's Award for children's literature. Author Martha Brooks, celebrated for edgy young adult fiction that digs deep--including Bone Dance and Being with Henry--charts the waterways of the human spirit in this superb novel, which deftly walks the tightrope between fiction for older teens and adults.
Seventeen-year-old Norene Stall blows into the little town of Pembina Lake in southwestern Manitoba like a bad wind on the tail of a fierce summer storm and transforms the lives of those who try to take her under their wings. Norene is on the run after stealing her boyfriend's truck and a whack of cash, along with his heart. And she's pregnant to boot. Fiercely independent, stubborn, and probably the cause of more trouble than she's worth, she nonetheless worms herself into the affections of Lynda, the harried owner of the local café, and her five-year-old son, Seth, who she's raising on her own; 76-year-old Dolores, the oldest First Nations waitress in Manitoba, who has her finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in town but who can't quite get her own life in order; and Del a bachelor farmer and sometime poet who's deeply in love with Linda but afraid to do anything about it. True Confessions is a novel full of startlingly poignant insights into the rich inner lives of ordinary, yet always extraordinary, people. --Jeffrey Canton
From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up-At 17, Noreen has led an unhappy life, overloaded with conflict. One stormy night, she drives off in her most recent boyfriend's truck and finds her way to a rundown caf in a small Canadian town. It is operated by a sad and impoverished ex-schoolteacher who is raising her young son, Seth, alone. Noreen's talent for trouble, fed by the fires of her careless bravado, soon surface as she endangers the child's dog by feeding it a chicken bone, and moves on to set a real fire in the bungalow she's been offered as a temporary living space. Flashbacks to Noreen's past reveal her rage at her awful parents, whom she hasn't lived with for years, and her depression and carelessness while living with her boyfriend Wesley. As Brooks knows how to show so well, troubled teens are not the only characters with problems. The adults Noreen encounters in this small town have nightmares of their own, reaching back to times long before she blew into town, and little Seth is truly at the mercy of the emotional storm centered all around him. Although Noreen realizes she is pregnant, and loses the baby within the very short time span of this novel, this is not a "pregnant girl problem story." Instead, it is a clear-eyed and clarifying look at the power of community, and the relative inadequacies of any one individual to weather the storms of life alone.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Everyone in this town has a secret, so it should be the perfect place to hide. But Noreen brings chaos wherever she goes, and soon, the town is turned inside out.
But can Noreen face her past and her feelings? Or will she, too, try to disappear in Pembina Lake?
If you are looking for a book about being a pregnant teenager, this is a pretty good choice. If you're looking for a fascinating read, I'd pass.
Brooks does a great job of portraying the emotion and angst that go along with teen pregnancy, but eventually, Noreen's refusal to accept help becomes grating. The pacing is a little slow for my taste, as well.
She turned onto the main street -- the sound of the lake a whisper behind her, the leaves of the tall trees now talking overhead -- she saw his truck parked in front of the café and Wesley sitting inside it....
He didn't seem to notice as she got closer, his eyes closed as if he was concentrating on something. With her hand on her stomach, she steadied herself. The window on the passenger's side was open and she could see the distinct curve of his dark lashes as they rested against his cheek.
"Wesley," she said quietly....
She felt a hot sting of shame. She wanted to hide. But in Pembina Lake, beside a truck, in front of a café, wheat fields and sky flaming pink and orange and gold all around, there was absolutely nowhere to go.
In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend's truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble.
And trouble comes soon enough, as Noreen's new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake.
Seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall is pregnant and frightened and not knowing what to do, steals her boyfriend's money, truck, and begins driving until she reaches the sleepy-eyed town of Pembina Lake. She soon discovers that everyone in this crazy town has a secret, for her, it's the perfect place to hide! But Noreen has a knack for stirring up trouble and it follows her wherever she goes drawing unwanted attention to herself.
This wasn't a novel that rated high on my reading list, cute enough, but not anything even close to serious literature and fiction. Unfortunately, this not the type of book that I would recommend to anyone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"The American novelist John Gardner, I think it was, said there are, really, only two plot lines: a stranger rides into town, and a stranger rides out of town", - William Least Heat-Moon "PrairyErth".
This book begins with the former. In it, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall has arrived at the M.T. Café in a stolen truck, her pockets full of stolen money, and a baby growing in her womb. She has arrived in a small Canadian town in the middle of nowhere without direction or hope. Winner of the 2002 Governor General's Literary Award (think of it as the Canadian Newbery), this book is one of the most quietly moving pieces of young adult literature I have ever read.
Author Martha Brooks has created a small stirring story. Individual characters meet and mix with Noreen, showing their own private sorrows and disappointments in life. The girl herself seems to attract nothing but bad luck and trouble, and it's difficult to see how exactly she's going to change her life around.
This is not a story where everything slowly gets better and better for Noreen until, at the end, she's bursting with enough joy and happiness to fill her days. It's subtler than that. More realistic. And filled with beautiful well-thought out characters. Following in a long line of stories in which a single girl finds herself surrounded by occasionally understanding people, this book is nothing so much as an older version of "The Great Gilly Hopkins".
Moralistic parents beware. This story does contain a fair amount of swearing (though I was amused by the Canadian/British bad word "bugger" showing up as well) in addition to discussions of abortion and miscarriages. And I don't know how interesting this book is to kids and teens. After all, much of this story concentrates on the thoughts and emotions of the middle-aged and elderly. Not typical YA fare. But for any teen that is looking for a book that shows real problems without becoming didactic, preachy, or condescending, this story is ideal. There are no easy answers. Noreen isn't going to be saved by the kindness of strangers. This book deals with the truth and its ending is satisfactory in the extreme.
When Dolores Harper, who has a gift for helping people, hears about Noreen, she decides to get her to talk. But while she is helping Noreen open up, she can't see that her "oldest friend in the world" might need her support as well. During her stay at Pembina Lake, Noreen makes many more mistakes, including accidentally poisoning Seth's beloved dog and ripping out part of the wall in the café while trying to remove the fading, ugly wallpaper. Will she run again, or decide to stay?
The characters you meet in this book are real and unforgettable. Watching them help each other along gave me a satisfying feeling.
--- Reviewed by Briana Orr
I often have trouble sympathizing with characters like Noreen, who I sometimes find annoying. But this story drew me in completely and made me care about what happened to everyone. The characters of the elderly women were excellent additions to - it's not every day you find perspective like that in a YA novel.
I like bittersweet endings.
One evening while Noreen is walking along the highway after leaving her most recent boyfriend, Wesley, a truck driver, picks her up. He falls in love with her immediately. After spending a few nights in a hotel room together, Wesley and Noreen go tell Gladys, who has been worried about Noreen's whereabouts for days, that they are moving in together.
Noreen carries on a boring life with Wesley. He goes to work and comes home while she basically stays in bed all day. One day she finds a coffee can full of money and decides to clean up the house. Noreen begins to spend Wesley's money and when he finds out, he is furious. The next day Noreen takes the rest of the money, her belongings, and Wesley's truck and leaves.
She drives through a storm and ends up in a small Canadian town. She walks into a café and all of her problems come out. The owner of the café takes Noreen under her wing and tries to help her. Noreen ends up nearly killing their dog, setting fire to her temporary living quarters, and tearing down a wall in the café. Through all of this she finds out that she is pregnant with Wesley's child. Once again Noreen picks up her belongings and disappears. Only this time she comes back.
The book takes the reader through the mind of a troubled teen who is struggling to grow up. It also reveals the troubles from the past that many older adults deal with. Together Noreen and the people she meets at the café help each other out. It also shows the true power of love and friendship.
Brooks writes the novel freely which makes it an easy read. It holds the reader's attention, and tells a powerful story at the same time. She reveals many of life's hard-learned lessons through the encounter of total strangers. This is an entertaining and influential book for early teens through adults.
After reading this book's jacket, I was convinced that I would love it. "True Confessions of a Heartless Girl" appeared to be the type of book that would have intriguing characters and be insightfully written yet effortlessly readable.
Well, it wasn't.
Initially, the book is promising, as it is filled with quick and riveting descriptions of Noreen during her childhood and her time with Wesley. But once Noreen actually arrives in Pembina, the plot slows so much and becomes somehow so sparse that it was hard to read more than ten pages of the book at a time. The events were painfully and almost artificially "normal" and dialogue can only be called run-of-the-mill. Brooks also has a habit of drably describing all of the characters' mundane activities (like coloring with crayons) and all of the town's scenery that becomes more aggravating with each chapter.
The "subtle" writing style (if we must be polite and call it that) is made worse by that fact that the story is, well, cliche. There are so many young adult books explore similar themes-teen preganacy, the effects of a bad childhood, and how a stranger can change people's lives-that another one is unnecessary unless it is actually compelling.
It is impossible to imagine why this book won such praise in Canada. A few well-done passages do nothing to hide the fact that this book is as bleak and colorless as Noreen is heartless. Instead of this book, try Sharon Creech's "Walk Two Moons" or Margaret Wild's "One Night."