Julie Klausner’s first book, the (less-young adult) essay collection/memoir I Don't Care About Your Band, is one of my favorites of the genre, like it was written by Nora Ephron if she washed her own hair, had a decent record collection, and wrote way more explicitly about penis. Although Art Girls Are Easy, her most recent novel set at an upscale girls’ summer camp for performing and graphic arts, is YA and touches on eating disorders and cutting, Klausner has smartly not dumbed down the sex and humor.
As Judy Blume discovered so many years ago, teenaged girls are eager to read about sex, as long as it’s realistic and relatable. Klausner doesn’t shy away from describing the crush of her protagonist, Indigo Hamlisch, in frank detail. She doesn’t pull punches with her jokes, either, which is why Indigo, despite her adolescent mood swings and intensity, is still relatable to adults, and why the humor still hits. It’s very rare to read a successful not-fantasy YA book that isn’t strictly dramatic, i.e., that includes a skinnydipping scene lead by an overachiever tripping on nutmeg instead of the standard YA tragic moment including a car accident, suicide, overdose, or some combination of all three.
Sure, crushes abound, but the true love story in the book is between Indigo and her best friend, Lucy, and how Indigo has to overcome her feelings of jealousy and insecurity to keep their friendship intact. Stories of best friendships are more common in YA, but given how powerful they are in girls’ lives, even into one’s ‘20s, it’s nice to see one written so well, and given more emphasis than a summer romance. The characters’ ages and issues do make Art Girls Are Easy unmistakably YA, but the quality of the writing and humor keep the tone and appeal of Klausner’s work firmly in the Ephron-sphere.