In the case of A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High — a serious and substantial new work of nonfiction that challenges the pieties of the genre — the victories, however pyrrhic, are psychological and social. This is to say that it’s one of the best recent examples of the genre because it focuses, with no small amount of empathy, on our tragic ignorances with regard to sexuality and gender. And this may because its author, Ken Corbett, a practicing and teaching psychologist, now at NYU, approaches his subject with shrewdness, diligence, and care ... Whether we call it true crime or not, the lessons of A Murder Over a Girl linger. This is to say that you’ll want to read it again, though not because it is a gripping procedural. Should a murder this tragic be gripping? You’ll read it again because it matters.
Corbett writes compellingly, and A Murder Over a Girl reveals the vagaries of the legal system and the crapshoot of 12 citizens teasing out the facts — not to mention the nuances — of profoundly complex human interactions ... Corbett ultimately achieves what he probably did not set out to do: leaving the reader both spellbound and dumbfounded by how easy it is for a legal trial to produce an unsatisfying end.
What Corbett’s introspective, even brooding account of this trial has to add, in our age of ever-escalating racial and gender and ethnic bias attacks, are some powerful insights into how hatred takes hold in the mind of a young person, and how we as a culture might reckon with its consequence ... while there may be a few too many first-person interludes and diffuse musings for my taste, Corbett’s relentlessly open mind is rewarding for the reader. His compassion, in the end, leads him to places he did not expect to go ... Corbett unfortunately resorts to some schematic devices to put people he doesn’t like in boxes.