#11 (2020) Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy was a lovely little slip of a book. A brief 161 pages of characteristically lovely writing and clever storytelling. Smith’s novels are always full of the unexpected and are all the richer for it.

Girl meets boy. It’s a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances? 

Ali Smith’s remix of Ovid’s most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can’t be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, here is a tale of change for the modern world.

Smith’s tale deals with a heady mix of topics, including sexuality, gender, discrimination, and body image. The protagonist, Athena, is a bit of a misfit. A little lost in life, she’s puttering along trying to her best to make her way and to fit in at work. She lives with her sister, Imogen, who seems to have a firmer grasp on things. The narrative is mostly told from Athena’s perspective, but Imogen gets her own section in the book, too.

It would be easy to give everything away with such a short book, so I’ll keep this brief. Needless to say, Smith’s writing is artful, funny, and full of flare. I always really enjoy her novels, and this one was no exception. I marked this passage for its particularly striking and Smithian feel:

The grey area, I’d discovered, had been misnamed: really the grey area was a whole other spectrum of colours new to the eye. She had the swagger of a girl. She blushed like a boy. She had a girl’s toughness. She had a boy’s gentleness. She was as meaty as a girl. She was as graceful as a boy. She was as brave and handsome and rough as a girl… (Pg. 83-4)

There are rich and wonderful passages, like the one above, and then there are these lovely throwaway but hugely meaningful lines:

It’s what we do with the myths we grow up with that matters.

If you’re a Smith fan, this book won’t disappoint, and if you’re new to her writing then this would make for a lovely introduction.