Many of the stories, set in Southern California, follow a teenage girl in the aftermath of her beloved father's death and capture her sister's and mother's encounters with men of all ages, as well as the girl's budding attraction to her best friend, Esperanza. In and out of school, participating in wrestling and softball, attending church with her hysterically complicated family, and dominating boys in arm wrestling, she grapples with her burgeoning queerness and her emerging body, becoming wary of clarity rather than hoping for it.
... a bold, witty, ominous and vulnerable second book of stories that is as resolute and original as its author ... Some entries are only paragraphs long, but even then, from their opening lines, Blackburn’s assured prose and patterned cadences spark the characters and their voices to life, holding the reader hostage to the tales that unfold ... There are longer, meatier stories in the collection, but Blackburn’s economy of language is masterly. With detailed imagery, keen observation and an ability to subvert expectations, Blackburn commands the page in few words ... the stories in this half offer a tapestry of one character’s experiences, within an inventive structure that varies in form, comprising straight narrative as well as grief logs, crossword puzzles and quizzes ... Though a few stories read more like fragmentary situations, How to Wrestle a Girl shines in its propensity to magnify small moments, challenge our presumptions and dissect the beauty, danger and wonder of girlhood ... throughout this intimate collection, Blackburn renders her characters’ interiority artfully, with emotional precision — unearthing things we often leave unsaid. And we’re fortunate she does, because in the narrator’s words, The most frightening things that eat up our lives can’t be seen.
Blackburn’s second book of short stories is eclectic and satisfying even as it leaves readers with little closure ... Written from a distinct point of view and certainly never dull, this collection will appeal to those who enjoy experimental fiction and firmly places Blackburn as a writer to watch.
These are stories about the chaos of bodies, from menstruation to athletics, from sex to movie makeup. Rather than tell an overarching narrative, each story acts as a fragment of a wildly patterned mosaic, and through accumulation, patterns come clear, if not exactly a single picture. This structural inventiveness mirrors the formally inventive stories ... Boldly styled and deeply original.