Big Girl Small

A Novel

Rachel DeWoskin

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Judy Lohden is your above-average sixteen-year-old—sarcastic and vulnerable, talented and uncertain, full of big dreams for a big future. With a singing voice that can shake an auditorium, she should be the star of Darcy Academy, the local performing arts high school. So why is a girl this promising hiding out in a seedy motel room on the edge of town?

The fact that the national media is on her trail after a controversy that might bring down the whole school could have something to do with it. And that scandal has something—but not everything—to do with the fact that Judy is three feet nine inches tall.

Rachel DeWoskin remembers everything about high school: the auditions (painful), the parents (hovering), the dissection projects (compelling), the friends (outcasts), the boys (crushable), and the girls (complicated), and she lays it all out with a wit and wistfulness that is half Holden Caulfield, half Lee Fiora, Prep’s ironic heroine. Big Girl Small is a scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and unwaveringly serious.


Read an Excerpt

  1When people make you feel small, it means they shrink you down close to nothing, diminish you, make you feel like shit. In fact, small and shit are like equivalent words in English. It makes sense, in a way. Not that small and shit are the same, I mean, but that Americans might think that. Take The Wizard of Oz, for example, an American classic everyone loves more than anything even though there’s a whole “Munchkinland” of embarrassed people, half of them dressed in pink rompers and licking lollipops even though they’re thirty years old. They don’t even have


Praise for Big Girl Small

The voice of Judy Lohden will ring in my head for weeks to come. A first page so funny and fierce I read it aloud to my teenagers—in public. Judy stuffs Holden Caulfield right back into his dusty museum case and shows us the rawness and the dark humor of today’s coming-of-age experience. Judy Lohden speaks for all young people facing the unspeakable ignorance of others. Yet Rachel DeWoskin handles the story with the sensitivity of a scalpel and a humor that leaves the reader howling. I was delighted and moved.” —Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Big Girl Small is the most engaging novel I’ve read in many years. DeWoskin has aimed the book at all the pleasure centers: it’s sad, funny, quirkily suspenseful, and—most of all—beautiful. I can’t imagine a more satisfying read. A book for anyone, anywhere, who’s ever felt alien or different. That is, a book for everyone.” —Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and More Than It Hurts You

“I loved reading Big Girl Small as much as I loved watching The Breakfast Club for the first time. Is Rachel DeWoskin our new John Hughes?” —Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day

“This is what Rachel Dewoskin wants to know: how do you go on living in a world that exalts creativity yet stifles difference? DeWoskin describes exactly what high school kids are like: the smart ones, and the sensitive ones, and the okay ones, and the happy ones, and the fake ones, and the twisty artists, and the true talents, and in the middle of it all, her exuberant creation Judy Lohden—a stellar phenomenon growing like a poppy towards the sun. Witty, intuitive, and moving, Big Girl Small examines the crucial moment when we either listen to what the world says and stay small, or dare to sing out at the top of our lungs.” —Nicola Keegan, author of Swimming

“DeWoskin deftly captures the often vicious dynamics of adolescents, which mask their fragility, and creates in Judy an unforgettable character, one who is, by turns, sardonic and heartbreakingly vulnerable.” Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)

“DeWoskin’s daring third book takes on sexual politics, physical beauty, pity, and violence, and succeeds in giving readers a nuanced and provocative treatment without descending into pedantics or hysteria . . . It’s a rare author who is willing to subject her protagonist to the extreme ranges of degradation and redemption to which DeWoskin subjects Judy; thankfully, she manages it beautifully.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction even as she uses them to pull the readers’ heartstrings.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The wisecracking 16-year-old dwarf at the center of DeWoskin’s darkly comic coming-of-age novel narrates a thoroughly modern tale of humiliation and resilience ... DeWoskin gives us an irresistible heroine—one who rises above misfortune with grit and grace.” —Marion Winik, More
“As if adolescence isn’t freaky enough, the charmingly sassy teen dwarf in Rachel DeWoskin’s Big Girl Small becomes the victim of a cruel and compromising prank.” —Vanity Fair
“This wonderfully engaging novel captures the way adolescence renders one’s own identity somehow unknowable, perhaps because ‘we contain various versions of ourselves,’ and high school is the time of maximum pressure to choose just one.” —Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
“It’s worth the read to spend nine days with Judy as she hides out in the Manor Motel and reflects upon her life and events that propelled her into hiding and finds her way back into life, a little older and much wiser. The layering in of what it feels like to be seen as disabled gives an old story line new depth. Sure to appeal to fans of coming-of-age fiction and readers who enjoyed DeWoskin’s acclaimed memoir, Foreign Babes in Beijing, and her debut novel, Repeat After Me.” —Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC, Library Journal

In the Press

Fiction Review: Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-11257-8
DeWoskin's daring third book (and second novel after Repeat After Me) takes on sexual politics, physical beauty, pity, and violence, and succeeds in giving readers a nuanced and provocative treatment
- Publishers Weekly
BIG GIRL SMALL by Rachel Dewoskin | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of BIG GIRL SMALL. DeWoskin (<em>Repeat After Me<em>, 2009, etc.) combines two reality-TV staples--teenage sex scandals and little people--in this story about a gifted high-school junior whose struggle to fit in is compounded by her height (3'9").
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Rachel DeWoskin

  • Rachel DeWoskin is the author of Foreign Babes in Beijing, a memoir about her inadvertent notoriety as the star of a Chinese soap opera, and a novel, Repeat After Me. She lives in New York City and Beijing and is at work on her fourth book, Statutory.
  • Rachel DeWoskin © Anne Li




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Big Girl Small

A Novel

Rachel DeWoskin

ALA Alex Awards Winner (Adult for Young Adults)


Farrar, Straus and Giroux