Jessie Tu’s A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing is a stressful book if, like me, you often find yourself vicariously experiencing the stress and confusion of characters on the page as your own.
Here is the story of Jena, a former child star who gave up on her career at 14 years of age, only to spend her early adult life toying with the idea of performing as a solo violinist once again – or settling for less than what she knows she’s capable of. Added to all that is the ongoing fallout of being exposed to the world at such a young age, finding sex to be your only refuge from emptiness, and seeking both pain and affection from the bodies of others but never finding it. It all feels painfully relatable, even though Jena’s experiences bear no resemblance to my own (none at all – did you hear that, Dad? None, I promise).
Such raw honesty often had me wondering, in true concerned auntie style, “Are Tu’s parents ever going to read this?” But this is exactly what makes it so refreshing. I spent the entirety of the book wondering if Jena would ever stop sabotaging her relationships, if, by the end of the book, she would emerge a different character to the Jena we started with. In some ways she did, but not in the heroic sense that we often expect – particularly from characters of colour.
There was no great victory where Jena has learned all the right lessons and rebuilds all of the bridges she’s burned. Perhaps the most significant transformation was Jena’s relationship with her mother; this is something that unfolds toward the end of the story and still feels unresolved in many ways, but still feels so real.