Pizza Girl by Jean Kyong Frazier (NetGalley Review)

4/5 stars

Over the years I’ve known quite a few former pizzeria employees, and whether it was a local family-owned shop or a huge chain, they all say the same thing: I can never eat pizza again. That malaise towards the world’s favourite takeout dominates Jean Kyong Frazier’s unique debut, with a narrator who works as–you guessed it–a pizza delivery girl.

She’s eighteen, pregnant, and much less excited about that fact than her boyfriend and mother. People around her had big plans that her pregnancy derailed. She isn’t quite sure what she wants to do next, or how exactly she’s going to be a mother. And so when a woman calls up requesting a pepperoni-and-pickles pizza for her son, despondent about moving to Los Angeles, she becomes fixated on this mysterious vision of perfection she delivers to twice a week.

I think Pizza Girl is an acquired taste. It’s a bit of an anomaly, much like the pizza orders featured–it features teenagers but isn’t really a YA, it discusses big-picture stuff like parenting and loss without much, well, happening. It’s set in Los Angeles but doesn’t have the punchy local touches of other Los-Angeles-set media (and it shouldn’t, because BoJack Horseman is the be-all end-all of this. If you know you know!)

Basically, this is a character study of our narrator, dealing with the trauma of losing her father and becoming pregnant at a young age, feeling directionless, battling addiction, and finding her path after high school. She is also wrestling with her sexuality, and this book gives a voice to female bisexuality I honestly haven’t seen represented in many other works–self-assured and conflicted all at once, with a narrator who is troubled but doesn’t need a redemption arc, a young woman who has made some questionable choices but can learn her lesson on her own terms.

Frazier is a talented writer, with a real sense of purpose in her words. This is a short read, but an engaging one, even if some of the plot points are a bit underdeveloped. Despite the very specific time this is set (2011), Frazier’s narrator feels timeless, capturing one of the universal truths of media–everyone either wants to be eighteen or currently is eighteen. Frazier captures all the joy and misery of that, in a voice that is refreshing and hopefully coming up with more to say.

Thank you to NetGalley and HQ Stories for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can learn more about Net Galley here.


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