A look inside the hottest tween book of the season: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Alex Grayson (’14)/ For Eastside

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Initially, I picked up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because it wrapped three of my absolute favorite things into one book – girls, dragons, and tattoos. However, after excitedly rushing home to dive into the book, I was sorrowfully disappointed. The title was a complete sham, not once in the first three chapters were dragons, girls, or tattoos mentioned. As betrayed as I felt I continued reading, and to my delight the book turned out to be a stroke of literary genius. 

On the surface, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo appears to be just another droplet in the vast ocean of teen bubble-gum novels, complete with glorified conflict and a painfully shallow plot. However, once you really commit yourself to the characters and fully immerse yourself in Larson’s writing the true story emerges. It’s a heart-wrenching story depicting the struggles and triumphs of 19 year old Tiffany as she inadvertently stumbles onto a remarkable journey of self-discovery.

The book is separated into two parts – before and after.  Before opens up by introducing the main character, high school senior Tiffany Jordan. With her jaw dropping good looks and unbreakable confidence Tiffany was a force to be reckoned with. At school she was at the top of the social food chain and all the other girls revolved around her with undying envy. Having been the prom queen, class president, and head cheerleader for four consecutive years Tiffany was the epitome of high school perfection. Drowning in her ever-increasing ego, Tiffany moved out to L.A. to make it big as an actress. Remarkably, she did. A year later she was dubbed Marilyn Monroe’s predecessor by People magazine and she felt especially unstoppable.

At this point in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Larson has successfully written a fairly elusive story about a girl and her success. But then, he reveals her dark side in the after section. Following, a drunken evening of clubbing Tiffany finds herself in a tattoo parlor and after one decision and four hours later her life is indelibly changed. She wakes up the next morning with an intricate dragon tattoo covering her entire face. Initially her life spins into a downward spiral of demise. She loses any opportunity of being an actress and resorts to drinking.

Eventually, the failed actress with the dragon tattoo gets kicked out of her apartment and desperately seeks employment. The only job Tiffany could find, that accommodated her facial art, was a maid position at a motel. Larsen’s book then begins to resemble The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling as he reveals the wretched conditions maids live and work under. After Tiffany sees how the maids live firsthand something incredible happens; she finds real meaning in her life that extends further than popularity and stardom.

Tiffany redirects her life to seeking justice for the mistreated maids. She starts unions, organizes rallies, and vehemently speaks on behalf of the maids. Along the way she subsequently discovers a little bit about herself and a lot about life. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a gripping book that catches you off guard and beautifully illustrates the uncertainties of life.