I read Leah Stewart’s novel The Myth of You and Me a couple years back and I had a lot of problems with it. I had a lot of problems with Body of a Girl, too.
Olivia Dale is a crime reporter for a Memphis newspaper. She’s not a rookie, but she’s young and it shows despite her best attempts to hide her reactions to the horrible things she’s called upon to write about. When the novel opens, she’s at a crime scene. Timing allows her to be closer to the body of a girl than she would normally be allowed.
“I’ve learned to stomach the photographs they show me,” Dale says, “but now I know it’s nothing like being so close you could lean down and touch that dead, dead skin” (2).
Perhaps because the dead girl is similar in age and appearance or perhaps she’s just the final straw in Dale’s precariously constructed life- either way, she becomes obsessed with finding out everything there is to know about the dead girl. Not only does she throw her personal safety out the window, she chucks out her common sense as well. As the book chugs along I felt less and less sympathetic and more and more annoyed with her.
I think Body of a Girl attempts to answer some of the questions we all ask: what makes us the same, what makes us different? How close to the edge can we walk without toppling over? Can we ever really know someone? The problem with Dale is that, despite her profession, she’s a piss-poor judge of character and doesn’t seem to have a compass of any sort. Her journey, ultimately, seems self-destructive, rather than a real attempt to understand the human condition. Dale just seems reckless and stupid by the novel’s rather sappy ending.