Monday, January 24, 2011

Not That Kind of Girl - Siobhan Vivian

Publisher: Push

Indiebound Summary:
Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things.

But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you wants to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out.

Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between.

Siobhan Vivian is an author that I placed on my radar ever since I read A Little Friendly Advice . Like Sarah Dessen, Dana Reinhardt, and Deb Caletti, Vivian writes about contemporary teens and the realistic issues they face. To be honest, I enjoyed A Little Friendly Advice and Same Difference, but they weren't exceptional to me. They provided a good couple hours of escape, but I don't remember much about them now. So when I got Not That Kind of Girl, I just expected the same thing. A good book, but nothing that will make a strong impression. And I couldn't be more wrong. Not That Kind of Girl is smart, sassy and full of girl power. And I love it.

Natalie Sterling represents every parents dream child. She's always on the honor roll, participates in student council as president and has clear future goals. She's strong, sensible and in control. Most of all, she prides herself on making the right choices. And that means not getting involved with boys because trusting them is as dangerous as drunk driving. But her beliefs were challenged as Spencer, a girl she use to babysit, enters high school as a freshman. Natalie's belief of feminism is to be as good as the boys and not demean oneself by hitting on boys and sleeping around. When Spencer comes into the picture with her overt sexuality and "sexual power" war cry, Natalie is determined to correct it and to make Spencer see it her way, until things happen and Natalie is suddenly questioning her beliefs and the choices she made.

Not That Kind of Girl is a great representation of the gender relations still going on today. Girls are still stuck between the "good"/"bad" girl dichotomies, while boys get to be more varied. Being a good girl means abstinence and dressing chaste. Whereas a girl that explores or displays her sexuality is seen as "that kind of girl", the bad one - a slut and/or a whore. Vivian explores this issue with complexity, but she never pushes her point. I definitely give her props for taking on a challenging concept and making it work. The well-defined characters, the authentic relationships they had and the realistic dialogue all combine make this a great book.

Note on the cover though: I think it's a cute cover and there is a romance element to the story, but the bubblegum, cutesy cover screams chick-lit and this book is definitely more than that. So don't judge this book by its cover (unless you think the cover is great, then go ahead and judge away). A must-read for any teen feminists!

Favorite Line: "I just needed to be okay with all the kinds of girl I was."
p. 317

Book Source: borrowed from library

Author Website | Indiebound | Goodreads


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