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Posted: November 15, 2020

A superb novel for young women finding their way

Book Review

By Derryll White

Zimmermann, Laura (2020).  My Eyes Are Up Here         

My mother believes there are two types of people: those who like to be the center of attention, and those who are too shy to want anybody to notice them.  She thinks I am the second but should be the first.                  -Greer Walsh

This is a fascinating novel, all about body parts – but not about sex. Greer Walsh has a problem, an abundance of boobs which makes her very uncomfortable and extremely self-conscious. At 15, she is 30H and dreams of breast reduction.

Greer is no air head; straight A math student and acing all her other subjects. She is, however, socially awkward, lonely and the butt of a lot of unthinking male witticisms.  She conceals herself in XL sweatshirts and uses a slumping posture to deflect attention.

There’s a lot more going on here than Greer’s battle with Maude and Maves and an exhausting list of bras. Laura Zimmermann loves language, loves it so much that she constantly creates delights of syntax and spelling that keep the reader paying attention. As well, she constantly explores Greer’s personality, filling it out and growing her into a loyal, sensitive, responsible teen.

Zimmermann not too subtly points out the role of sports in creating the idea of belonging, of team.  She also goes to some lengths to show how positive teacher role models can be of such importance to young women. Greer receives a lot of feedback as she takes her journey from loathing to liking. The reader ends up liking the idea of Greer a LOT!  “My body is not there for their amusement.”

This is a novel that would make a superb gift to any teen, but especially to young women finding their way into their own sense of self. It also has a lot to say to a much older generation.

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Excerpts from the novel:

OVERSIZE – It’s not just that she said “normal one,” aka a bra that fits “normal” breasts, the kind “normal” bodies have.  It’s also that I feel like an idiot for putting so much hope into a stupid sports bra.  Like some bizarre contraption is suddenly going to make my body feel and look like other girls’ bodies.  Like I’m going to start playing volleyball and be really good.  And I’ll stand up straight, and no one will think twice about my chest and I won’t think about it either.  And if I have to jog down a hallway because I’m late for class from talking to Jackson for too long it won’t feel like I’ve bruised my nipples and the skin over my ribs is ripping in two.  And I won’t be afraid that if somebody ever liked me, my boobs would become some big joke about him, too, until we were both embarrassed about them.  But it’s stupid to think I can get all that – that I can buy my way to normal – from a website that puts an apostrophe in ASK OUR CUSTOMER’S.

TIME – Each period is supposed to be 55 minutes, but seventh period lasts at least an hour and a half.  Once, Kurtis and Omar explained a theory about how there are forces acting on Earth’s rotation: Instead of a consistent 1,040 mph, the speed is constantly changing; we don’t notice it because our very existence is bound by the relationship of time and space.  They said even our thoughts can change speed, based on the actions of these forces.  The thing you are thinking right now could be only a blip or you could have been reasoning it out slowly over hours, but you’d never know.

That whole conversation was probably the longest Kurtis and Omar ever had with a girl, even if it was only me.  It might have gone fast for them, but it was very slow for me.  The force plays tricks on people.

I think of their theory of time when AP US History drags on.  I used to think it felt slow because it was the last period of the day or because Mr. Feiler reads the textbook out loud to us at a rate of a page an hour.  But the idea of a malevolent time force screwing with me at the end of the school day makes more sense.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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