Title: Stalker Girl
Author: Rosemary Graham
Pub. Date: 8.5.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Stalking, Breakups, Relationships, Secrets
Description (from GoodReads):
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line between curiosity and obsession?
Carly never meant to become a stalker. She just wanted to find out who Brian started dating after he dumped her. But a little harmless online research turns into a quick glance, and that turns into an afternoon of watching. Soon Carly is putting all of her energy into following Brian’s new girlfriend — all of the sadness she feels about her mom’s recent breakup, all of the anger she feels over being pushed aside by her dad while he prepares for his new wife’s new baby. When Carly’s stalking is discovered in the worst possible way by the worst possible person, she is forced to acknowledge her problem and the underlying issues that led to it.
I almost passed on Rosemary Graham’s STALKER GIRL. I couldn’t help but think it might be just a bit too creepy.. a bit too weird... for my tastes. When I browse contemporary YA titles, I generally look for topics and characters I can identify with, and, when I think of words to describe myself, stalker typically doesn’t come to mind. Then I stumbled upon the book trailer and it somehow lodged itself in my mind; I decided to give STALKER GIRL a try. It took only a handful of pages to completely draw me in and I was shocked at what I found.
It turned out that I identified with Carly more than I ever could have imagined. In an interview with the author, I read that STALKER GIRL was originally titled SHE WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THIS. While I love the straightforward final title and its ability to lure potential readers into browsing the description, I prefer this first incarnation. Like STALKER GIRL, it draws me in, but it also transforms Carly into a more relatable character right from the start. Yes, the main character is a stalker, but she wasn’t always like this. Of course, the reader discovers this as the novel progresses, but, at least in my case, I think I would have been more apt to pick it up right from the start with this title… I would have wanted to know why she had changed.
Understandably, there’s a stigma surrounding the word “stalker.” For me, stalkers just are. There is no before or reason to their creepy, unacceptable behavior. In some cases, like Carly’s, there is a before. And it’s a before that I feel many can relate to. It begins as innocent curiosity. Your serious relationship has ended, perhaps abruptly, and that person you’ve shared so much with has moved on. What does she have that’s so appealing? Why her and not you? Maybe you’ll just look at her Facebook page and glance through her pictures… it’s harmless. Right? But you can’t stop thinking about him. About her. Maybe if you just saw her, you’d understand. So you snoop a bit more and find out that she’s made plans to be here at this time. You’re just going to go for a glimpse… But you still can’t stop.
Of course, most of us wouldn’t take it this far. We’d have friends who would tell us he’s not worth it, that she isn’t even very cute, and that there are plenty of fish in the sea. But if you’re alone, if those thoughts keep bouncing around in your head… multiplying… intensifying - would you be able to hold yourself back? Or would you find that things have twisted in your mind and you now somehow think it might be alright to watch just a little more…?
If Graham had only shown Carly after the breakup, I might not have identified so strongly with this story. But Graham handled this intense material with skill. The novel is divided into three sections: after the breakup, leading up to and during the relationship, and the consequences of Carly's obsession. It was the middle section, which comprises the bulk of the volume, that made Carly three-dimensional and a character with traits I could identify with. I drew parallels between Carly’s personality and mine, but was cognizant of our differences as well. I appeared to share a number of personality traits with Carly: jealousy, a tendency towards almost obsessive attention to certain subjects or objects (like books). I found myself analyzing why I’d never wound up in Carly’s position… After all, she’s not crazy, at least, not in the traditional sense. She’s been through a lot, her mind is completely overwhelmed, and things just … start to go a bit haywire.
What I mean to say, is that I understand Carly. I found myself wanting to reach out and help her, guide her, let her know she wasn’t alone. I thought I’d feel protective of the new girlfriend, the stalked, but, in the end, I didn’t. Yes, I understood her feelings as well, but it was still Carly that I felt the connection to. Perhaps it was simply Graham’s phenomenal writing that cast a spell and pulled me into Carly madness… or perhaps it was the fact that we all have that small, dark part of ourselves that threatens this crazed behavior... and Carly’s fate.
Be sure to check out the book trailer... it won me over!