Cover Image: Girl, Unframed

Girl, Unframed

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Some readers will consider Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti a cautionary tale. Others will describe it as a coming-of-age tale. In my mind, Girl, Unframed is both types of stories. Sydney's experiences are a large part of being a teen girl, but her situation grows out of control specifically because she does not have the life experience to recognize any danger in that situation.

I finished Girl, Unframed a few weeks ago, but a recent event with my sixteen-year-old daughter reminded me of why books like this are so important for teen girls. Jim and Holly recently visited a car dealership, looking to test drive a vehicle his nephew wanted to buy. While there, the salesman helping him admitted that he had assumed Jim and Holly were a couple. She had on no makeup and was wearing nothing that would make her look older than her 15/16 years. Still, both this situation, as well as Sydney's in the book, are stark reminders that many men consider anything with boobs accessible, something too many teen girls don't understand until it is too late.

What makes Girl, Unframed so powerful is that I remember exactly what it felt like to be sixteen and to understand that your looks are enough to turn heads. While you may consciously target that ability to boys of your own age, you take secret pride in having a similar influence over older men (and by older I mean early 20s). It is a heady feeling, strong enough to clearly remember thirty years later.

Ms. Caletti is careful to make it clear that Sydney does nothing wrong. Her actions do have consequences, but what happens to her are not those consequences. Wearing a bikini in the privacy of her backyard or on the beach, experimenting with sex with a boy of her own age, wearing clothes that make her feel good about herself while accentuating her curves - none of this excuses how the men around her act. Herein lies the lesson within the story. Society ALWAYS blames the girl simply for being herself, and that is wrong.

Sydney eventually realizes the mixed messaging given to teen girls. Dress to impress but not too provocatively. Desire the attention of the male species, but don't get upset when you get that attention, no matter in what form it comes. Desire, but don't desire too much. In Girl, Unframed, Ms. Caletti not only highlights this minefield of expectations, but she also illustrates her point through Sydney's confusion as well as the danger in which she finds herself. Thus, Girl, Unframed becomes an important weapon in educating our girls of the dangers they face simply by being themselves thanks to a patriarchal society that glorifies in objectifying young women.

Ms. Caletti excels at explaining what it is to be a teen girl without pandering or demeaning her target audience. She does so in a way that is authentic and evocative so that even middle-aged readers will remember that feeling of invincibility that only the young feel. She also provides her readers with insight into situations they are not yet capable of handling with the necessary maturity, of which Sydney's situation is a perfect example.
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3,5 - 4,0 stars!
This book brings together important content about puberty, family relationships, self-esteem, and it's all dressed in the tense atmosphere of a thriller.
I really like the author's narrative style and I recommend this book to all fans of the genre, but you should know that the book includes sexual harassment, domestic abuse, emotional manipulation.
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This says some powerful things about standards that girls and women are held to and about the nature of power over other people. But while this was compelling, I found the way the plot was written not conducive to me being interested in the actual story. I was frustrated by the way Sydney kept referring to events in the reader's future, particularly because it didn't feel like we got enough "clues" to solve this mystery, if it even is one. This is a problem novel masquerading as a mystery/thriller, and that bothered me a lot.
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It’s no secret that I absolutely ADORED A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti and it will forever be one of my favorite contemporary novels, so when I heard Deb Caletti was going to be writing a thriller set in San Francisco I clicked that NetGalley request button SO fast. Girl, Unframed proved to be a dark, unsettling story about the burdens of beauty, whether it be regarding artwork or a real, living girl who’s appearance is commodified, scrutinized, and weaponized at every turn.

Protagonist Avery is the daughter of a stunning movie star who’s clinging to relevancy after being an icon of decades past. Sent to spend the summer in San Francisco with her mother (she’s usually away at boarding school), the story proved to be an unsettling coming of age tale as Sydney must reckon with the ugly truths around her developing and changing mind and body. Away from the safety of her school and friends, she’s in a situation where she’s seen as an object that others- from her mom’s sketchy boyfriend to even a random construction worker in the neighborhood- feel entitled to comment on and have an opinion about, when Sydney doesn’t even know how to feel about her body herself. It’s a message that perhaps felt a little heavy handed at times but is overall extremely relevant and unfortunately pervasive. Sydney’s agency and sexuality are defined over and over again by the adults in her life much more often than through her own decisions and actions, and yet any harnessing of her own body’s agency are instantly slapped with labels such as “dirty” or “out of control.” Caletti did a great job balancing Sydney’s inner narrative of anger toward these double standards and determination to be the keeper of her body with the unwanted yet unstoppable shame and disgust she feels when inappropriate judgement is passed on her appearance and actions, even from fellow females (such as her mother).

The setting of this story was so well done, and while it was never scary or overtly dangerous, there was a constant current of unease that was woven through the novel, especially in the large, old cliff side manor that Sydney finds herself spending the summer in, eerie both when she’s alone or when it’s full of the hushed fighting and stretched tension of her mother and boyfriend’s tumultuous relationship. The book takes place in San Francisco but shows a different side of the city than many media does, focusing less on the tourist attractions and more on the historic elements that are a throwback to the glamorous and dangerous past of the city, from the Sutro Baths to the Presidio to the City Lights Bookstore. I’ve been to San Francisco more times than I can count yet I still found that this book surprised me with little nuggets of history and hidden places.

Overall: I went into Girl, Unframed expecting a thriller about the dark world of stolen art dealing, but that really took a backseat to the coming of age story of Sydney, trying to navigate a world that lays claim to her body and identity before she’s even sure of who she is yet. Sydney’s sense of self develops over the summer while the drama in her home escalates, and the end of the summer ended with a plot twist I didn’t see coming. I highly recommend Girl, Unframed for anyone who’s looking for a darker, yet achingly raw and realistic coming of age tale of a young woman in the modern age.
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I’ve long been a fan of Deb Caletti and this book did not disappoint! However, due to the content, readers should be prepared/forewarned that there are scenes which may cause strong emotional and triggering responses in readers. 
I rated this with the full 5-stars for suspense, the absolute perfect realistic & refreshing young adult voice and narrative, and for putting on paper the reality of what it means to feel viewed as an object - complete with sexual innuendos, expectations, desires, sexism, feminism, clichés, love, etc. It’s all there for us, the readers, giving us a raw, realistic, and timely view of questions, thoughts, and fears that have plagued many, many generations. 

The story is told through the main character, Sydney, and her “voice” is so real and so perfectly young adult, you can’t help but be sucked in page after page. The story begins with Sydney leaving Seattle, where she lives with her grandma Edwina, to spend the summer with her movie-star, larger-than-life mom, Lila. The descriptions of San Francisco, the Sea Cliff house, and the beaches are all so spot on, you can picture yourself there. However, the real magic of this story is in Sydney herself. Her thoughts and feelings throughout, along with the tense, suspenseful moments, are so real, so tangible, that I couldn’t put the book down.

The gripping plot moves and builds week by week, over that summer visit. The beginning of each chapter giving you a foreshadowing of things to come as each one begins with evidence, used in an unknown, future court trial. Example - “Exhibit 5: Framed promotional film poster with partially shattered glass, 27”x41” featuring Lila Shore in Nefarious”. 

The story itself unfolds as a coming-of-age summer for a teen girl, just turning 16, and trying to understand the world as she sees it, as well as through those around her. Her relationship with her mom is rocky and awkward but with moments of tenderness. Overlaying all of the day-to-day conversations and events is the sense of foreboding and suspense.  You can feel the storm brewing with each page. The reader is moved forward step-by-step toward “IT” through the voice and eyes of Sydney until we reach the climactic ending of the book, and thus, the summer. The ending did not disappoint and I won’t say any more about that, except this is a must-read for fans of Deb Caletti, young adult realistic fiction, and suspense!

Thanks to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Deb Caletti for an advanced eBook copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Powerhouse book right here! I’ve already recommended it to a former student. Caletti deftly deals with a serious issue (girls realizing how men view them) and adds a thriller/mysterious storyline to it. I was drawn in and finished the book in 2 sittings. I haven’t read a book this engulfing in awhile.
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I'm rather disappointed in this book. To be clear, it has solidified my love for Deb Caletti's writing - I requested a copy of this book (thank you Netgalley for granting me a copy!) because I was/am completely obsessed with A Heart in a Body in the World, and to be honest, the premise of the book was irrelevant to my interest. However, I definitely did not expect the story to go the way that it did. I actually thought at the beginning of the book that this could be five stars (or at least four), and I felt that the crux of the story was a letdown. I was also hoping for some closure with the main character's best friend, and I wasn't as big a fan of the romance as the reader was meant to be. Anyhow, this book didn't quite meet the high bar or pack as big of a punch as AHIABITW, but I did really enjoy the writing, and I'm still excited to pick up more from Deb Caletti. I think people who have enjoyed her previous work (before AHIABITW) will enjoy this, and probably just people with different expectations for the plot device than I had.
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Sydney, 16, returns from boarding school to spend the summer with her mother in San Francisco.  Lila, a once-famous movie star, is trying to resurrect her fading career but past history of disastrous marriages and relationships impacts her relationship with her daughter.  Sydney struggles with issues of self-esteem, constantly questions her desires and what it means to be a "good girl."  While she finds romance with Nicco, her long friendship with Meredith suffers.
I found the constant attention to looks to be off-putting, and Sydney's frequent comments about "that kind of girl" to be depressing.
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Thank you Simon and Schuster Children’s publishing for the eARC from Netgalley.

3.5 / 5 stars

*I will include book trigger warnings in my review, so these may be slight spoilers. I note when I do this.

Sydney dreads spending the summer with her absentee mother. Sydney is used to being last on the famous Lila Shore’s list. Sydney is staying with Lila and her new boyfriend, Jake, for the summer in California. Soon Sydney realizes that her mom and Jake seem to be involved in some suspicious art dealings. Sydney’s mom is self obsessed and barely takes the time to worry about anyone but herself. Sydney, used to her mother’s absence, finds herself exploring more of the seaside town throughout the summer.

This title is listed as a “thriller” in multiple synopsis for this book. I would say this is misinforming. I believe the more appropriate classification would be a coming of age story with a hint of mystery. However, I do feel a bit hesitant to classify this in this way, but it is the closest comparison I can think of. This is not a thriller. This book does include brief descriptions at the beginning of each chapter that seem to display testimony entries from multiple people. However, the arc copy does not go into detail with these, so I would assume that there may be photos or some other form of visual in the final copy. These snippets do support a sense of mystery / intrigue, but I would not say that this helps make the book into a thriller or anything of the sort.

*content spoiler warning*

*Book trigger warnings: I feel like this book should include some trigger warnings at the beginning of the book. When you pitch this as a thriller/mystery you are potentially bringing a different audience in. 

*Topics included: violence / abuse / forceful grabbing, mention of rape, violence from an intoxicated person, predatory behavior / targeting of a minor, touching of a minor, possessive behavior, parent ignoring warning signs / putting a child in danger, lewd behavior

This book was very tough to read at times. Based on the synopsis I knew that it may be a harder read, but I truly did not expect all of this. I personally think that a content warning should be given and the inclusion of “thriller” genre should be removed.

Overall, I did enjoy this for what it was. Important topics were brought up throughout the book. The main character showed quite a bit of strength. It was sad to see Sydney be put in troubling situations by her mother. I was disgusted with the male predatory behavior in this book, and it was hard to witness Sydney dealing with all of it over and over again. Sydney definitely feels much older and wiser by the end of the book. 

I do wish this book would have included more outside support though. I wish Sydney's friend and Nicco would have supported her a little more. More could have been done. 

I enjoyed this, but based on the synopsis my expectations were a bit different. I know this book hits a lot of triggers for people, so please keep that in mind.
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“Of course, being looked at and being seen are two entirely different things. And when you are looked at but not seen, you are an object. An owned thing. A napkin. A magazine. A knife.”

This book follows Sydney in the summer she turns 16. She flies from Seattle to California to live with her movie star mother. From the beginning of the book you know a crime will be committed but you don't know what that crime is or who committed it. 

This book is being marketed as a YA thriller but I think it's really a hard hitting coming-of-age story. This is a book about all the way women's bodies become objects. It's hard and at times uncomfortable to read but it's powerful. The story itself is a fairly quiet story. Most of the chapters are just quick glimpses into an ordinary day in Sydney's life. What makes this book special is the writing. Deb Caletti does so many things that are structurally interesting. For example, she uses parallelism often to show Sydney's conflicting thoughts: "sexy was something you wanted to be. Sexy was something you should never be." Lines like these I thought were brilliant. They show how confusing it is to be a teenage girl. 

One theme this book really explores is sexuality. On one hand, as a beautiful young girl Sydney wants to be desired. She wants to touch and be touched by her boyfriend Nicco. But the same things that make her attractive to Nicco, leering men are noticing and Sydney struggles with her discomfort at suddenly being "seen." I think this is a feeling all women can relate to, no matter how old we get. We want to be beautiful but not ogled. 

This book reminded me of both Sadie and The Female of the Species. If you were a fan of either of those books, I think you'll really enjoy the commentary in this book.
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This book is the story of a white family that is fractured. The mother, Lila, is an actress and we meet her when she is living with an abusive boyfriend. The daughter, Sydney, lives between her grandmother's house and her boarding school, where she is popular and happy. Sydney's relationship with her mother is challenging, as her mother is insecure, easily dominated by the men in her life, and jealous of Sydney's budding sexuality. When Sydney goes to visit her mother for a summer, she discovers her own attractiveness to boys (and to men) while also having to confront the many ways in which her mother is flawed. There is an element of suspense in this book as each chapter begins with court documents and evidence, so there is foreshadowing as to what is to come. 

The downside of this book is that it is exactly like a Lifetime movie, complete with melodrama and shallow and predictable dialogue and inner monologue.. I could picture watching it unfold, especially the ending.
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Deb Caletti is a master of foreshadowing and ratcheting up the tension as the story progresses.  That is one of the things I enjoy the most about her writing and this book does not disappoint.  Sydney is a strong, female protagonist and the development of her character was spot on.  I enjoyed being privy to her thoughts as she started to question how girls and women are portrayed in books and film, as well as how they are treated in everyday life.  The ending was really satisfying, but no spoilers here.  Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the digital ARC!
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A smart, page-turning thriller about a young woman caught up in the male gaze and its violent, dehumanizing effect. The San Francisco setting and confessional, first-person narration evoke post-WWII noir... with a feminist twist. Sydney is no femme fatale. She's a 16-year-old emerging into her sexuality while fighting against objectification and worse.
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I received this eARC through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Sydney loves her life at school in Seattle, she has an awesome group of friends that she enjoys spending time with as well as her grandmother. But, she flies to LA to spend the summer with her mother who is a “washed up” actress who is very self-centered, naive, and honestly, an absentee parent. However, when she leaves the plane she isn't met by her mother, but rather her mother's boyfriend, Jake. Jake is supposedly a real estate agent and an art dealer, but there are many things about Jake that Sydney “Syd” just doesn’t like. He doesn’t treat her or her mom the way she feels they should be treated and he really makes her uncomfortable. Sydney also begins to find herself and her voice in many ways throughout the novel whether it is through her relationship with the nice young man, Nicco that she meets or whether it is learning to stand up to her mother and Jake. 

Personal opinion: 

Honestly, this book tried to cover so many things, domestic violence/abuse, a girl finding her voice and working her way into becoming a woman, etc. I personally felt that this book fell flat when it came to being a “thriller”. The mystery/thriller part of the book was kept a mystery until about 93% of the way through the book which was really frustrating to me and did not really make me want to continue reading. I also felt like the mystery in the end was then rushed and not really shown in as much detail as the rest of the entire book.
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This one hurt. It is a book about the millions of ways that men treat women of all ages like objects. It is also a book about a girl who's mother prioritizes her own beauty and the opinion of men over her own daughter and.. this book hit me hard. It hit me SO personally in ways that a book never has before and I am going to be thinking about this one for a LONG time.

TW: sexual harassment, domestic abuse, emotional manipulation
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I cannot recommend this book enough. I was excited to read something different and this book did not disappoint me.
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4 1/2 stars!

This was my first introduction to Deb Caletti's work and I have to say I am a fan.  This thrilling coming-of-age book is the story all teen girls need to read.  Sydney might be the daughter of a movie star, spending the summer in a multi-million dollar beach house, but she is remarkably relatable.  I think many young women can remember that summer when men suddenly noticed you, and not necessarily in a good way.  Caletti took every girl's dream life and removed the rose colored glasses.  What we are left with is a deeply disturbing tale of modern femininity, societal expectations, and abuse.

This book is like a bomb and the timer starts ticking on page one.  The tension was immediate and, before I knew it, I was on the edge of my seat, frantically flipping pages to see what came next.  I didn't know where the hit was coming from, but I expected it around every corner.  

The relationships in this book gave me all the feels.  I wanted to smack Lila, hug Meredith, kiss Nicco, and surreptitiously shove Jake off a cliff.  Each character feels well developed and unique.  Lila was particularly complex and I was intrigued by the role she played and how it differed each chapter.  

My biggest issue with this book was that it ended.  I am so engaged in Sydney's story and I just want to know what happens next.  I wasn't dissatisfied with the ending, but I could have read on for many more chapters (or maybe a sequel?).  There is also a lot of use of the phrase "you know" when referencing things we don't actually know, like "you know what he looks like" in reference to a character who is famous in the book, but ultimately fictional.  I understand the purpose of this device and it even fits the voice of a sixteen-year-old girl, but it was overdone in my opinion.  

This exciting YA novel will leave you white-knuckled and sleep deprived in the best way.
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Sydney is growing up and that means her body is changing too.  She has started noticing that boys and men both are giving her attention and she starts to wonder where the line between flattery and obsession is.  Sydney is supposed to spend the summer with her mother, but since her mom is the famous Lila Shore, Sydney knows that she will not be on the top of her mother’s plans.  Will Sydney be able to decipher when attention is good and when it is bad?  Will Sydney be able to keep herself safe when so many young ladies before her could not?

Girl, Unframed is a standalone realistic fiction story that covers many truths about growing up in today’s society.  The actions that take place in this book may have been extremes from the entertainment industry, but that does not mean they only happen there.  Caletti gives hints about what may or may not be coming with titles of what seems to be evidence of proof … of what; you must read further into the book to find out.  Although this book is listed as a thriller, it is the story BEFORE the action with the mystery being dangled in front of the reader during the majority of the book.  A good book, but requires a little bit of perseverance.
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This was a great coming of age YA with a bit of a thriller sidestory. Deb Caletti's writing is so powerful. This book was great and I highly recommend for lovers of YA!
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I  might be biased a little bit, because I've read almost every book by Deb Caletti. Her books just get better and better. After the Printz-honor A Heart in a Body in the World, I wasn't sure what the follow-up would be.
Girl, Unframed was all that I hoped. Caletti has learned how to master the tension when you know something bad is coming. While the ending is different than Heart, the whole book has that same sense of dread where you know you are hurtling towards something big.
The Goodreads description says this book is a thriller, but I would say that it is only a thriller in the way that every woman who has experienced the male gaze and been terrified is living in a thriller. That is what this book is at its core- social commentary that every woman can relate to, if not because she has experienced it, then because she has heard other women's experiences.
My only note- I wish the cover had a girl with brown hair instead of blond, since that is how Sydney is described in the book.
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