Book Review / The Girl's Guide to Homelessness
Brianna Karp

In her early twenties, Brianna Karp had a pretty good life: she made $50,000 a year at a job she adored, owned a charming cottage in Orange County, and lived the way that a young person with a somewhat disposable income should be living. Then the recession hit, and by early 2009, she lost her job and house. Unable to stay with her parents—strict Jehovah's Witnesses who had physically and sexually abused her as a child—Karp suddenly found herself without any money and with only an old trailer of her father's to stay in. The Girl's Guide chronicles the ups and downs of the next year or so (Karp’s a little hazy on the timeline). Her highs are thrilling: there's a whirlwind romance with a homeless activist, and she lands an internship at Elle magazine; the lows are equally devastating: the dissolution of her relationship leads to a case of hypothermia, and the kennel where she boards her beloved dog nearly starves him to death. Karp's particularly resourceful nature (she learns trailers can park overnight at Wal-Mart, uses free Starbucks wi-fi, and gets $10 a month gym passes for showering purposes) is fascinating to witness, and you'll find yourself holding your breath and sighing with relief as she manages to find her way out of near-catastrophic situations. Part memoir, part instruction manual, and part rhapsody on the plight of the homeless and jobless, Karp's story is a lively and engaging look into what it means to be homeless in America.