Anything is worth it if it makes you feel good…
When Mom leaves Dad to be with Theresa, everyone besides Parker’s best friend, Drew, abandons her—even the church. Parker feels deserted, alone, and ashamed. Why would her mom leave her? And, why would God do this to her? She desperately wants to feel good again and thinks that if she can prove to her judgmental, small town, she is not the same sinning, softball-loving lesbian, like her mom, she will finally feel okay.
Parker was determined not to be defined by her mother’s actions, and as a result, decides to use her body to prove she’s a girl. A girly-girl that loves boys. She embraces “femininity,” drops twenty pounds, and trades her starting position on the girls’ softball team to be the stats-girl on the boys’ baseball team.
Parker feels alone, but if the warmth of a different boy’s arm every night, or the kisses from the high school baseball coach are able to fill that void, she’s willing to take it.
Like everyone in high school, Parker just wants to feel accepted.
However, what happens when this young girl realizes that everything she has tried to become is the opposite of who she is, and when everything that she has tried to erase is exactly what she has needed to feel whole?
…Sometimes, we just need our family.
Initially, I was a little hesitant to read Stealing Parker. Though I had read fairly good reviews, I was still skeptical that the plot line was going to be too predictable. Nevertheless, rather than predictable, a quote from the text adequately describes my experience…
“I peel back one layer to find a hundred denser layers full of secrets” (64).
Categorized as contemporary young adult fiction, this novel falls specifically into a few different genres styles, such as: drama, realistic fiction, and romance. Parker, a seventeen year-old girl, tells this story from the first person point-of-view. It is written similar to the style of a journal, which quickly immerses readers into the text, and creates a strong connection with Parker as the center of consciousness. As a reader, you are very in touch with Parker’s feelings and personally, I felt like I was enduring the emotional roller coaster along side her. At times, I felt just as ostracized. Parker is very blunt and straightforward when she announces the novel’s major conflicts. For example, on page one, “I gave up foam fingers, peanuts, and the Atlanta Braves when my mom announced she’s a lesbian” (1).
Although, Parker is straightforward in terms of expressing plot conflicts, Kenneally’s journalistic style is able to maintain reader interest by implementing a few different elements. Often, Parker jumps around in thought. She mentions something that the reader desires to know more about, and then stops, changes the subject, and moves on. Intermittently, prayers that Parker has made to God will appear, as well as thoughts that are not actually “written down.” Additionally, Parker has frequent flashbacks to the past and she remembers how she and life used to be before Mom left.
Each of these elements increases the suspense and heightens the reader’s anticipation for what is to come next. I applaud Kenneally in doing this. She has paid so much attention to detail. Even the chapter titles play a role in increasing reader anticipation. The chapter titles slowly count down to the narrator’s eighteenth birthday, starting fifty-two days prior to the day. For example, chapter one appears like this…
“the day I met brian hoffman
52 days until I turn 18”
At first, the importance of Parker’s birthday seems obvious. Brian Hoffman is the twenty-three year-old baseball coach and Parker is a seventeen year-old student. Nonetheless, when Parker finally reaches her long awaited eighteenth birthday, its significance isn’t exactly what the reader is expecting.
The number of social issues that this text introduces is intriguing and I think it serves as a great example for how literature evolves with cultural change. I say this particularly in regards to the book’s emphasis on queer relationships and raised questions of religion. This text acknowledges the ridicule that the queer population is subject to, but more specifically how that ridicule can have a devastating domino affect onto others. Furthermore, after Mom’s lesbian reveal, the church turns its back on Parker, and on Parker’s family. Members of the church are scared that Parker might turn out like her mom, “A lesbian. A sinner.” (13). Parents, “had to protect their daughters” (13), and so Parker was no longer allowed to hangout with her former best friend, Laura. It did not matter that Parker’s Dad answered no when she asked, “Does it actually say that in the bible? Thou shalt not become a lesbian?” (13). The church did not accept it, so neither could she. The immense pain that Parker felt unjustly tore her apart from her mother and displaced her identity in society.
Keanneally raises very controversial questions. Questions like, is it actually wrong to be lesbian? What defines a good Christian? Does the church always practice what the bible preaches? And is love no longer unconditional, but instead, shaped by society?
Even outside of the concerns of sexuality and religion, this book is very realistic to life. The setting, the characters, and the variety of problems that arise throughout the text, are all very believable. Whether the reader can relate to Parker right now, or, like me, can remember exactly how Parker feels, Stealing Parker can be enjoyed by women of all ages.
This text acknowledges that at points in our lives, we all might feel alone, sexual desires are natural, and at the end of the day it is okay to be different—because when you love someone, nothing else matters.
Personally, I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to others. It is a page-turner and though you finish it quickly, it leaves your mind wandering. My only criticism is that I wish it were a little bit longer. Some of the themes could have been elaborated on more and the closing was short. The resolution unravels just in the last ten pages and with so much built-up anticipation, I wanted it to last longer.