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The Girl Who Owned a City – by O.T. Nelson

July 20, 2009

The Girl Who Owned a CitySo this book was written in 1973, which causes me to cut it a little slack as far as writing style. A little. It’s also a classic in the genre of stories in which kids are forced to survive without adults, so it was an interesting read just in that respect. The basic premise is that a plague has killed everyone over the age of twelve and the children are left to survive on their own. Lisa’s life has become a daily struggle to find food for her and her brother. Gangs have formed and are making life even more difficult for the children in Lisa’s neighborhood. Lisa knows that she has to find a way to protect her food supplies, so she devises a plan to change the scattered groups of kids in her neighborhood into a self-sufficient city.

My biggest complaint about this book is that it tends to ignore one of the major tenants of creative writing, which is “show, don’t tell.” There is often no distinction made between the characters’ thoughts and their speech, so it’s hard to tell if they are unnecessarily verbalizing their thought processes for the benefit of the reader, or if the text within the quotation marks represents the implausibly explicit thoughts themselves. It strikes me as a somewhat lazy method of exposition. Most of these thoughts and feelings don’t need to be stated, but could be made clear in other, less obvious ways. One of my writing pet peeves is when the author treats the readers as though they can’t figure things out for themselves.

That aside, I did find this book quite interesting, as the concept is one that will always fascinate me. The political ideology is fairly blatent, which can be grating at times, but is intriguing nonetheless. I didn’t actually like or agree with the main character that much, but there were at least a couple of other characters whose opinions were represented. All in all, I’d say it was so-so, but valuable in a historical aspect and in its relationship to other books of its kind.


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