Teenagers exist in a world of heightened emotions, and it can be tricky for writers to evoke that state of mind without seeming either distant or patronizing. This isn't a problem for Hassman — as in her debut novel, girlchild, she captures the anxieties and affections of young people in a perfectly realistic way, without a note of condescension ... And while Hassman proves masterful at recounting Helen and her friends' most painful moments, she also brings a disarming sense of humor to the novel ... Hassman is a vastly talented writer, and she brings to the novel a fascinating structure — gods with a little g is told in a series of short vignettes; the result is a staccato kind of narrative that brilliantly evokes the feeling of being a teenager, constantly addled, at loose ends, desperate to make a connection. And for all its dark moments, it's a novel that's as heartwarming as it is beautifully written.
...light shines through in almost every line ... This is well-charted territory, but it sings due to Hassman’s joy of text, unusual thinking and clever turns of phrase that allow even half-page 'chapters' to vibrate with truth ... as Helen discovers her own free will, her adolescent journey offers hope to readers of any age. The book’s final section races along with so much action that, like me, those readers may wish for a sequel, becoming evangelists for a writer with heart.
Hassman offers us a vision of regular small-town folks enacting the worst aspects of themselves and their religion; a vision all the more salient in the current climate where abolishing people and ideas we don’t like has become the new American dream ... Helen’s mother died of a cancer likely linked to the oil refinery. Though her death doesn’t exert as much pressure on the story as it could, Hassman writes beautifully of Helen’s memories and grief ... engaging reading ... There are a great many happenings in this novel, but they don’t quite build to an arc of Helen’s becoming ... Hassman’s compassion for her characters can come across as wishful thinking ... It’s not that I wish Helen were a more tragic character—that indomitable, often hilarious voice of hers keeps us turning pages. But the novel needed a reckoning.
As she did in her striking debut, Girlchild (2012), Hassman imaginatively parcels out her second novel in titled chapters ... Irreverent, wise, heartbreaking, and heart-mending, this is about nothing less than the everyday challenges of love, belief, and existence. In Hassman’s dazzlingly original style, sweet-sour, wicked-tender Helen’s entrancing narration casts a remarkable spell.
... [a] balls-to-the-wall YA crossover novel ... If this sounds like yet another version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it is — and it isn’t. While Hassman does spend much of her bandwidth on short, often disconnected chapters detailing the Dickheads’ nefarious escapades, there are also some truly heart-pinching moments, particularly in the last third of the book. One thread involving Helen’s flailing attempts to stomach her father’s burgeoning relationship with Bird’s Bible-toting mother, Iris — and, in turn, work through her attraction to Bird — feels genuine and succeeds as a weightier counterbalance to some of the other frothier aspects of the book ... isn’t for everyone. The story line isn’t always linear, and some of the plot elements warrant more thorough consideration ... Still, Hassman clearly has her finger on the pulse of the teenage psyche — especially that of a fragile but oh-so-lovable disgruntled teenage girl. By the time this gritty novel has concluded, our affection and respect for wily yet vulnerable Helen and the rest of her ragtag crew has gone from zero to full-throttle.
... it’s a testament to Hassman’s skill as a writer that readers not only don’t find these mistakes frustrating but actually understand why Helen makes them. Throughout, her witty, irreverent, progressive voice and unique point of view propel readers to keep reading even when the subject matter proves difficult. Some readers might find the setting of Rosary, California, hard to stomach, and for good reason ... Had Hassman not chosen, at the end of the book, to push back against stricture and depict her characters defying the rules of Rosary, gods with a little g would be a much less hopeful (and successful) book ... the narrative concludes on an uplifting note that holds within it the seeds of change not just for Helen but for Rosary and for teenagers everywhere resisting oppression in ultra-religious communities. If there’s one bad note in the novel, it comes in the chapter titled 'Discipline,' the narration of which is needlessly self-conscious to the point of being distracting. Otherwise, gods with a little g is a near-perfect novel.
It is, perhaps, easier to appreciate this novel by not thinking of it as a novel. It’s written in the first person, there’s a lot more telling than showing, and there are vast narrative territories that are barely explored. Read as a collection of very short fictions, though, the book coalescences as a melancholy, triumphant, slightly magical coming-of-age tale. Hassman creates a world that seems to be defined through stark dualities, but the story tends toward chaos in the sense that no certainty, no opposition, goes unquestioned ... At the same time, the story—the collection of stories—moves toward unity, self-actualization, and transcendence ... Weird and uncomfortable and glorious—just like adolescence.
... charming and funny ... Using the first-person point of view and brief chapters, Hassman taps into Helen’s confused and maturing mind, and bounces between scenes to construct a loose plotline. This coming-of-age tale honestly and strikingly encapsulates the teenage experience.