just_a_girl tears into the fabric of contemporary culture. A Puberty Blues for the digital age, a Lolita with a webcam, it's what happens when young girls are forced to grow up too fast. Or never get the chance to grow up at all.
Layla is only 14. She cruises online. She catches trains to meet strangers. Her mother, Margot, never suspects. Even when Layla brings a man into their home. Margot's caught in her own web: an evangelical church and a charismatic pastor. Meanwhile, downtown, a man opens a suitcase and tenderly places his young lover inside.
just_a_girl is a contemporary adult novel about being isolated and searching for a sense of connection, faith, friendship and healing, and explores what it's like to grow up negotiating the digital world of facebook, webcams, internet porn, mobile phones and cyberbullying - a world where the line between public and private is increasingly being eroded.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Since the emergence of social media, there's been a perception that people are more connected than ever before: Facebook, Twitter, blogging, instant chats, the ability to access apps from your iPhone when you're on the move, photos of events posted before the event is over. There's pressure to be always available, always accessible, always switched on.
But status updates, blog posts, tweets, RSS feeds: do they offer any sense of real connection? Your friends might 'like' your posts but does that convert to a genuine response? My own experience is that relying on social media is making us lazy in the offline world. It doesn't translate into action. Why call when you can text? Why commit when something better may come up? Why send a birthday card when you can just say 'happy birthday' on Facebook when the calendar reminds you?
There's also the question of public versus private space. Many older users of Facebook are careful in the information they distribute. My own rule is that I use Facebook and Twitter as a kind of online work cubicle. If I wouldn't be happy pinning it up to a wall at work, I don't put it up on Facebook. If I distribute images of my children, I'm very careful about how they are represented. But what about our children's use of social media?
I've recently published a novel, just_a_girl, which features a 14-year-old girl who is reckless with her internet use. When researching the book, I was interested in the idea of characters more isolated than ever in the digital age. I began to focus on teenagers. I stalked a lot of young girls on Facebook (in the early days). I was astonished at how naïve they were in terms of the information they shared. With most I could easily find out their names, their birthdays, where they lived, which school they went to, their pets, boys they liked, and what they were passionate about. Parents were rarely in the equation and I'm guessing they had little knowledge of their daughters' online worlds.
According to a 7.30 Report story on 'sexting', 'one in five young women have posted images of themselves nude or semi-nude online. Nearly half the girls have been asked to.' These are not small figures. An increasing number of girls are being exposed in this way, some by choice and others not. If girls come from regional towns, the problem can be heightened. As the ABC's Louise Mulligan reports:
"They're the images that make any parent of a teenager's stomach turn: young girls in so-called 'selfies', shot by themselves in a state of provocative undress, taken on their smartphone and sexted, maybe to a boy they like, but the pictures get out. And, snap, they're on a Facebook page dedicated to exposing girls it calls 'sluts'. The page is the third to come out of one Victorian regional town in the past two years. We've chosen not to name it to avoid further harm to the girls. Two of the girls were aged under 18 and one under 16."
Girls walking down the street in their hometowns are then accosted as 'sluts' by people who recognise their images from Facebook. Labelled and judged. When parents of the girls in the above case tried to get Facebook to remove the images, their requests were refused. The girls are stuck up there. Imagine your first sexual experiences captured and displayed to a wide audience ...
I wrote just_a_girl for parents grappling with the new technologies thrust upon us. I think about my four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. They deftly scroll through my photos on the iPhone and iPad, their little fingers flicking the screen like experts. How do I teach them to respect each other and themselves? To commit to friendships? To take time to focus on things that aren't on a screen? To think carefully before posting images and words?
It's time for parents to sit down and notice. To help teenagers negotiate these changing spaces - to help them connect both in and out of the digital spheres.
But we can't do that unless we understand these spheres ourselves. And most parents are looking the other way.
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE WHEELER CENTRE DAILIES BLOG.
Kirsten Krauth is a writer and editor, whose debut novel just_a_girl was published in 2013.
She blogs about all things books and writing at Wild Colonial Girl, where she runs a monthly club, FRIDAY NIGHT FICTIONS, that supports and promotes the work of debut novelists and short story writers.
She currently edits the NSW Writer's Centre magazine, Newswrite. She writes reviews, articles and fiction for various magazines and newspapers, including The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald. She covers regional arts for ABC Arts Online.
She lives in Castlemaine, in Victoria (Australia), with her husband and two young children, and occasionally spots kangaroos and bunnies out her office window.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. Layla is only 14. As she sits in bed with a laptop, her mother Margot sleeps in the next room. But what separates them is more than just a wall. It's every mother's nightmare. Layla cruise.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 192 pages. 0.200. Bookseller Inventory # 9781742584959
Book Description University of Western Australia Press, 2013. Trade Paperback. Book Condition: New. TRADE PAPERBACK Legendary independent bookstore online since 1994. Reliable customer service and no-hassle return policy. Fiction and Poetry>Literature>A to Z. Book: NEW, New. Bookseller Inventory # 67978174258495900. Bookseller Inventory # 67978174258495900
Book Description UWA Publishing, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1742584950
Book Description UWA Publishing, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111742584950
Book Description 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. Layla is only 14. As she sits in bed with a laptop, her mother Margot sleeps in the next room. But what separates them is more than just a wall. It's every mother's nightmare.Shipping may be from our Sydney, NSW warehouse or from our UK or US warehouse, depending on stock availability. 192 pages. 0.200. Bookseller Inventory # 9781742584959