Friday, September 24, 2010

Poetry Friday: Getting the Girl

Getting the Girl
Getting the Girl

I always have to think awhile after closing a Zusak book. He socks me so hard in the gut it's hard to formulate a coherent "review" of the experience.

Getting the Girl is a continuation of the story of the Wolfe brothers begun in Fighting Ruben Wolfe. (My review here.) Zusak writes close to the bone, exposing the marrow of what love is---between a boy and a girl, and between brothers. It's also about Cameron defining himself, as he is ripped away from all the safe places he used to hide, including his identity as Ruben's inferior brother.

And once again, Zusak takes artistic risks within his story, risks which could've easily gone horribly awry. This time, he includes Cameron's stumbling and raw words as he puts who he is on paper, foreshadowing this almost mute boy's emergence as a writer/poet. These sections work, thank God, because Zusak doesn't try to underwrite them. He lets Cameron be over-the-top and angsty and "poetical" so his words read like the rough drafts of poetry before it's shaped by time and practice. They sound wincingly authentic, of the sort you'd want to hide if only they didn't demand such attention for their pure gutsy-ness and flashes of stabbingly accurate emotional insight.

The Charcoal Sky
Sometimes you go to the wrong place, but the right way comes and finds you. It might make you trip over it or speak to it. Or it might come to you when a day is stripped apart by night and ask you to take its hand and forget this wrong place, this illusion where you stand. 
I think of the mess in my mind and the girl who walked through it to stand before me and let her voice come close.

The rest of Getting the Girl is unflinching, too, as no one "gets" anyone. Instead, we wrestle with the dual meaning of "get": 1) to obtain or take and 2) to understand. When we love someone, which is it?

And most brilliantly, even though the book is a slim, short read, and we may think we already know we can't truly "have" another person, Zusak takes us on a long, slow walk through the conflicting desires that make it so difficult to let go of that need, so we can, like Cameron, chose how to love with open eyes.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten at The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title


  1. I read Getting the Girl after the Book Thief and still haven't (though I own it) read Fighting Ruben Wolfe. Getting the Girl was one of the best books I had read in ages and I just fell in love with it. I have given copies to friends with sons, friends with brothers and friends who are songwriters.

  2. Loved Book Thief and I Am the Messenger. Somehow missed Fighting. Will have to put both of these on reserve--thanks, Sara!

  3. and what a great study in extended metaphor that book is. all the water references, cameron struggling for air and drowning and everything so wet.

    zusak writes so well i hate him at times. i know, jealousy is never becoming. i don't really mean it, but i feel it.

  4. Ooh - love this book. Love Marcus Zusak. I really love his characterization of guys - they are "typical," in some ways, but the way he writes, he lifts them beyond that. Lovely.

  5. We haven't read this Sara -- thanks for a great review!


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