The Girl I Wanted to Be is the dramatic story of a family as seen through the eyes of one of its children and of the disillusionment that child faces when she realizes that her idyllic family is flawed, and she stops seeing things as
a kid and starts seeing them as an adult.|
Fourteen-year-old Presley Moran (named after Elvis) idolizes her mother’s
younger sister, Betsi, a young, alcoholic aunt who could have a dangerous
influence over her niece (if the child were not more mature than the
aunt). Presley’s cousin on her father’s side, Barry, is a few years older
than Presley and a constant presence in her life. They share a family
bond as well as a cherished friendship.
Presley’s adolescence would, for the most part, be considered normal—a
girl doing the things adolescent girls do. Her high school years
feature friendships, slumber parties, crushes, and the accompanying
pitfalls—nothing out of the ordinary, really. But when Presley learns of
Betsi’s relationship with a younger man, she’s devastated, the family is
threatened, secrets and lies are exposed, and tragedy ensues.
Sarah Grace McCandless touches upon various themes in this, her second
novel: a sense of belonging, how you’re defined, the impact of loss, and
the consequences of choices—as well as what it means to be an idol, and
whether that position can be maintained when mistakes are made and faults
While the moral may be similar to many other coming-of-age novels (i.e.
life isn’t always what it seems) the story is eloquently told. The
characters are well developed, complex and realistic. Presley’s family
could be anybody’s family, and Presley could be anybody’s teenage daughter. The
beauty of this novel is McCandless’ ability to tell a story quietly and
gracefully, without boring the reader. The story progresses without
deviating off into unnecessary, distracting tangents. Sarah Grace
McCandless is a great storyteller and a pleasure to read.