The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner
Part graphic novel, part illustrated diary, this “Account in Words and Pictures” traces the grueling maneuvers of Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old hanging out in 1970s Polk Street, back when the San Francisco strip was the go-to place for queers, potheads, and other misfits. Gloeckner pulls no punches in revealing Minnie’s inner and outer life as she enters into a sexual relationship with her mother’s boyfriend. Written “for all the girls when they have grown,” I devoured this thinly veiled fiction as both a cautionary tale and a reflection of my own close calls.
The Orange Eats Creeps, Grace Krilanovich
Read this book like settling into a David Lynch film — if you’re looking for a straightforward tale you’re going to get confused, and will miss out on the atmospheric pressures Krilanovich produces so skillfully. A teenage girl in the Pacific Northwest sets out to find her beloved sister, traveling with a band of scavenging crusty-punk meth heads, or perhaps vampires. A fever dream set in the ’90s, sickness and sex and longing, train hopping, backwoods trekking and small town invading.
The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
My favorite unreliable narrator, I was so obsessed with this book that I was almost hit by many cars because I was reading it in the streets, unable to put it down. No joke. Flannery Culp and her clique of snarky-smart art kids are in their senior year of high school when all hell breaks loose — absinthe intoxication, sexual harassment, murder. I need to start playing the lottery so I can win a million dollars, start a production company, and make this book into a movie.
Riding Fury Home, Chana Wilson
Chana Wilson’s mother tried to kill her with a shotgun, but the trigger jammed. A memoir about a girl left vulnerable and neglected by her mother’s striking depression — dazed on pills when not in and out of institutions for suicide attempts. Chana slowly makes her way, joining activist groups and getting activist boyfriends that serve as gateway drugs to a life-saving lesbian revelation. The book turns a wild corner when her mother reveals the root of her mental illness to be a her own repressed lesbianism, and Mom and Daughter descend upon the lezzed-out East Village of the 1970s in an unexpected and believable happy ending.
Cruddy, Lynda Barry
This is the ne plus ultra of a young girl caught in a deadly jam. Roberta Rohbeson, denizen of a “cruddy street on a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe,” has been kidnapped by her psychopathic father and is traveling with him as a boy named Clyde, a tiny knife called Little Debbie her only weapon. Besides her genius mind and sick sense of humor. Or maybe it’s Lynda Barry’s genius mind and sick sense of humor. Regardless, there is no book like this book in the whole world, and it goes so many places — grotesque cattle yards, curiosity shops, the creepy desert — it is like entering a world. One you want to remain in, no matter how brutal or bizarre.