Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl: Sexual shapeshifting celebration of being young and queer
Review: Andrea Lawlor's writing is imbued with a deep sense of the excitement of self-discovery
Andrea Lawlor: debut novel ‘a celebration of being young and queer’
Andrea Lawlor’s debut novel Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a celebration of being young and queer. The protagonist, a young man called Paul who can shapeshift his body at will, is by turns enthusiastic, desirous, hungry for experience, then unsure of himself and heartbroken.
The book, like its main character, eschews definition for something much more playful
As Paul moves from Iowa City, to Michigan’s Womyn Festival, to Providence and then to San Francisco, the novel plots his thirst for the new: “he was locomotive with desire for more more more”. Lawlor (who uses the pronoun they/their) celebrates queer communities and subcultures of the 1990s without creating a novel that feels like an exercise in nostalgia. Instead, their writing is imbued with a deep sense of the excitement of self-discovery in its representation of young queer people navigating the possibility of identity.
The book, like its main character, eschews definition for something much more playful. Though it replicates in some way the bildungsroman form, or even the künstlerroman, the birth of the artist, the “journeying” that Paul takes is not so much one of enlightenment or greater knowledge, but through different queer communities, different forms of sexual and intimate relationships, and the myriad possibilities of his shapeshifting form.