Blueprints for Building Better Girls

Blueprints for Building Better Girls

Fiction

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Elissa Schappell’s Use Me introduced us to a writer of extraordinary talent, whose “sharp, beautiful, and off-kilter debut” (Jennifer Egan) garnered critical acclaim and captivated readers. In Blueprints for Building Better Girls, her highly anticipated follow-up, she has crafted another provocative, keenly observed, and wickedly smart work of fiction that maps America’s shifting cultural landscape from the late 1970s to the present day.

In these eight darkly funny linked stories, Schappell delves into the lives of an eclectic cast of archetypal female characters—from the high school slut to the good girl, the struggling artist to the college party girl, the wife who yearns for a child to the reluctant mother— to explore the commonly shared but rarely spoken of experiences that build girls into women and women into wives and mothers. In “Monsters of the Deep,” teenage Heather struggles to balance intimacy with a bad reputation; years later in “I’m Only Going to Tell You This Once,” she must reconcile her memories of the past with her role as the mother of an adolescent son. In “The Joy of Cooking,” a phone conversation between Emily, a recovering anorexic, and her mother explores a complex bond; in “Elephant” we see Emily’s sister, Paige, finally able to voice her ambivalent feelings about motherhood to her new best friend, Charlotte. And in “Are You Comfortable?” we meet a twenty-one-year-old Charlotte cracking under the burden of a dark secret, the effects of which push Bender, a troubled college girl, to the edge in “Out of the Blue into the Black.” Weaving in and out of one another’s lives, whether connected by blood, or friendship, or necessity, these women create deep and lasting impressions. In revealing all their vulnerabilities and twisting our preconceived notions of who they are, Elissa Schappell, with dazzling wit and poignant prose, has forever altered how we think about the nature of female identity and how it evolves.
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Book Details:
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451607321 | 
  • September 2011
List Price $16.99

Video

Elissa Schappell on her Modern Day "Etiquette" book

A provocative, keenly observed, and wickedly smart work of fiction that maps America's shifting cultural landscape from the late 1970s to the present day.

Read an Excerpt

Blueprints for Building Better Girls Out of the Blue and into the Black
I woke up in my own bed. Alone. Fully dressed, including underwear. Thank you very much. Lucky me because the ballet flats and pink polo shirt weren’t mine, only the jean mini. I like to call it my Houdini skirt because it makes your butt disappear and you can slip out of it even in handcuffs. That’s a joke.

I was feeling pretty good about myself. What a good girl I am, I thought, tucking my comforter up under my chin. You know, who cares... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Blueprints for Building Better Girls includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In eight darkly funny linked stories, Elissa Schappell delves into the lives of an eclectic cast of archetypal female characters—from the high school slut to the good girl; the struggling artist to the college party girl; the wife who yearns for a child to the reluctant mother. Their struggles illuminate the common, but rarely discussed experiences, that build girls into women and women into wives and mothers.

In “Monsters of the Deep,” teenage Heather craves intimacy despite her bad reputation at school; years later in “I’m Only Going to Tell You This Once,” she must reconcile her memories of youthful misadventure with her current role as the mother of a teenager who is falling in love for the first time. In “The Joy of Cooking,” a harried mother continues to nurture her adult daughter, Emily, a recovering anorexic; in “Elephant,” we find Emily’s sister, Paige, confiding her ambivalence about motherhood to her new best friend, Charlotte. In “Are You Comfortable? see more

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