Book review: Life lessons from Lena

Lena Dunham isn’t one to shy away from controversy.

The Girls creator and actress’s first novel Not That Kind of Girl is no exception. Published in September, Dunham covers taboo topics from losing her virginity and rape to body image issues and mental health.

The memoir-style novel is composed of many autobiographical essays, falling under the sections Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture. Dunham shares personal and often comical recollections of experiences she’s had throughout her life within each section.

The novel’s subtitle “A young woman tells you what she’s ‘learned’” basically sums up the theme of Dunham’s stories. Each one touches upon a lesson that she’s learned over the course of her life. Ultimately, the reader is left with some sort of insight or understanding about the adventures of childhood, adolescence and early-adulthood.

Not That Kind of Girl is a very entertaining read. Dunham has a rather blunt and brutally honest sense of humour that made me laugh out loud many times while reading. One of the most unique images she presents is the time she took a shower with the lower half of her body under the running water and the upper half laid out on a bath mat, while eating a loaf of bread.

It’s no surprise that Dunham’s memoir has also made headlines for its controversial material. Last fall, she came under fire for accusations of molesting her younger sister. In December, Dunham’s accused rapist threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against the writer.

It was brave for Dunham to write about her sexual assault, especially because it took her a while to realize what had happened was actually rape and not a normal sexual encounter. Sexual assault is a huge issue in our society and Dunham’s openness about her experience shows that it’s important to speak out.

Even though some of her stories are dramatic, they’re quite relevant. Young adults won’t have any trouble relating to her discussion of falling in and out of love, creating meaningful friendships or finding work after graduation.

In contrast to Dunham’s relatable nature, some aspects of her stories seem unlikely to have occurred — or at least not to such a dramatic extent. Certain stories are so over-the-top that they simply become hard to believe.

For example, Dunham writes about a class trip she took as a child where “the counselors shackled [them] together with jump ropes so [they] were like slave families and then released [them] into the woods.”

Apparently, the children were given a map and had to “find freedom in the North.” This seems almost too horrible to have actually happened and it’s unlikely that an adult would do this to a group of children.

In one chapter, Dunham even openly admits that she’s an unreliable narrator, which makes the reader question which parts of what we’ve read are actually true.

When reading an autobiography, I hope the information included is authentic, but I understand if Dunham may have falsified some events for entertainment purposes.

If that’s the case, she definitely succeeded in creating amusement. Overall, Not That Kind of Girl is an enjoyable novel that’s fun and easy to read. I would recommend it specifically to any young woman in her late teens or early 20s because the stories are generally targeted toward that audience.

After reading the novel, I feel I have a greater understanding of what the trials of adolescence will mean later. I’m also more hopeful that my future will turn out the way I want it to, regardless of what may happen along the way.

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