Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
Categories: Contemporary Fiction
First Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Synopsis: Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she’d like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future.
Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.
Bold, tender, propulsive, and unexpected in countless ways, Jean Kyoung Frazier’s Pizza Girl is a moving and funny portrait of a flawed, unforgettable young woman as she tries to find her place in the world.
Eighteen-year-old Korean-American Jane is pregnant and dealing with her complicated grief over her alcoholic father’s death while she finds herself heading down the same path, drinking behind her family’s back despite her pregnancy. Her boyfriend and her mother are very excited about the baby – but Jane herself feels disconnected and can’t see herself in this new life as a mom and sees no future for herself.
Her attraction to Jenny, a woman more than twice her age to whom she delivers pizza one day, is almost instantaneous, and quickly develops into obsession. It is sad and cringey to watch her feelings for Jenny stem so obviously from her loneliness and from seeing how lonely Jenny also is – and I don’t mean this in a bad way, I mean that I could see how those characters fell into each other’s gravities, even as I wished they wouldn’t. Not all the actions of the characters make perfect sense, but I found it easy to suspend disbelief for those moments.
Pizza Girl is a slim gem of a novel about grief, immigration and loneliness, and the protagonist’s voice reminded me of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Milk Fed by Melissa Broder. At a time when the “messy woman trope” is getting a bit old for me (I’ve read So Many this past year), this stood out and left a strong impression on me. There is something so very sad about this story, even when it’s funny, and something deeply human about it. I recommend it if you liked the books I mentioned!
Trigger Warnings: alcoholism, drinking during pregnancy, death of parent, grief, depression.