A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu

‘I’m going to be fine. You have to trust me.  I know how to take care of myself.’

Jena Chung is twenty-two years old. She plays the violin and was once considered a child prodigy. But she is struggling. There are two sides to Jena’s life:  the professional side which involves relentless practice, auditions, rehearsals, and concerts; the personal side which involves managing the demands of families and friends and lots of (often risky) sex.

No, Jena, you do not know how to take care of yourself. Jena is lost and lonely, detached from the world, trying to find a place where she belongs. Physical connection with others is important for most humans, but commitment needs caring and context.

‘Even in the cosmopolitan centre of the universe, I am an outsider.’

I found this a difficult book to read. I wanted to talk to Jenna, not read about her sexual exploits. I wanted her to see her self-worth rather than define her value in relation to the expectations of others. I kept reading, hoping that Jenna would become more self-aware and less impulsive.

Jena wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic: could this be the opportunity she needs?

I finished this book, torn between throwing it at the wall and placing it gently on the shelf. I didn’t care for the story, but I found myself admiring Ms Tu’s writing. And I wondered about what the future might hold for Jena.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith