The most powerful theme for me was this one of first impressions and their general inaccuracy. Throughout the book, Gigi learns things that surprise her about people she's known for years. For example, she is shocked to find out that one of the popular girls not in top level classes, who she thought only cared about boys and shopping, is obsessed with Anna Karenina. As time passes and she gives people a chance to be get to know her, she discovers hidden depths, forms new kinships with people she always stereotyped, and learns that people aren't necessarily what they appear to be. This realization helps her to overcome her own stereotype of being 'the smart girl,' freeing her to just be Gigi.
For roughly the first half of this book, I thought Strohmeyer had written hackneyed teen chick lit. In fact, it was reminding me a lot of Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, with the supposedly smart girl obsessed with a hot, obviously douchey guy. I was not particularly into the book until about half way through when I realized that Strohmeyer was going to overthrow all of that. If you're frustrated in the beginning, do not give up, because, if you're like me, you will all of a sudden be SO INTO IT.
Strohmeyer ultimately does some things here that I really do not see in enough YA fiction. First and foremost, I was thrilled to see a real friendship. In a lot of YA, the friends serve only as a receptacle for the plaintive cries of the heroine about how X is so hot and she can't help wanting him despite the fact that he is an asshat. The heroine never thinks of her friend except when SHE needs something, and we never learn anything about the friend's life.
Bea, Neerja and Gigi are not like that at all. Throughout the novel, they are constantly watching out for one another, supporting one another, and hanging out. They clearly love one another so much, and are always ready to offer a comforting shoulder after a breakup. Gigi joins a sports team to support Bea (even though she's really not good at it) and tries out for a play to support Neerja (even though she's so afraid of public speaking she often throws up). They will do anything for one another, and no boy could ever stand in the way of that. They are straight up 'hos over bros,' which is so REFRESHING.
As I mentioned, Gigi does have a jerk that wants her or at least pretends to, and she wants him as well. However, what makes Gigi different is that, despite her hormones saying yes yes yes, she doesn't make any rash decisions. She questions his motivations and considers whether he would be a good idea. She moons over him a little, but she does so privately. You can't really help who you're attracted to so much, but you CAN help how you react to it, and I'm so glad to finally see a YA heroine who is not overwhelmed by her lust.
SGGWTW totally charmed me in the end, proving to be much deeper than I was anticipating. If you want to read some realistic fiction that's actually realistic (but still happy and romantic), this is a good one. This is a wonderful summer read, so grab a copy for your vacation! You will not regret it!