Not That Kind Of Girl

Gr 9 Up—Despite its chic-lit packaging, bubbly style, and sophomoric jokes, this is a smart feminist novel. The story sheds light on some unfinished business of the women's movement: where sex is concerned, girls are still either "good" or "bad," while boys are allowed more nuance. Outraged by these double standards, Natalie, president of the student council, organizes a Girl Summit, an "empowerment symposium" for female students. As she flounders in leadership, she wonders: Can I ask for help? From a cute boy, Connor? The quintessential "good girl," Natalie is more complex than she appears. Indeed, all of Vivian's characters are recognizable types and human at the same time. The dialogue and emotional honesty are pitch-perfect. Natalie and Connor's love scenes are as steamy and fraught as anything in Judy Blume's Forever (Bradbury, 1975). The overall message of the novel is that sex is joyful and should be embraced—but it is ever complicated. In Natalie's effort to be an independent woman who refuses to be used by a man, she inadvertently uses Connor. Clearly, gender relations have a long way to go—especially in high school. This protagonist is the perfect representation of a conflicted 21-century feminist teen. Readers will cheer for her epiphany at the end: "I just needed to be okay with all the kinds of girl I was."—Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College Queens, Long Island City, NY
Natalie Sterling has always been a straight-laced overachiever. She doesn't intend to change that for senior year; however, her untarnished reputation proves to be just one of the many things she can't control. Vivian clearly knows her private school setting and she has a knack for vivid characters. The dialogue often overwhelms characterizations, though, and the conclusion is clichéd.

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