Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 865
Rules for Being a Girl
(Updated: July 18, 2020)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
RULES FOR BEING A GIRL is a YA contemporary novel by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno. The story follows Marin, a high school senior, who by all accounts is doing well. She’s a top student and a shoo-in for Brown University, her dream school. With her extracurricular activities, the recommendation from her favorite teacher, Mr. Beckett, or “Bex,” is just the cherry on top of her application— his family has a long legacy there, and with all their money donations, they even have a building named after them. Marin is appreciative, but Bex turns her world upside down when he kisses her, leaving her confused and horrified. What he did feels wrong, but Marin worries that it was somehow her fault. As she grapples with what to do, Marin’s worldview begins to shift. The more she sees, the more she realizes the mixed messaging aimed at females, which have not only complicated her life, but also made it significantly less safe.

This book is a force, subtly calling out many elements of our society that are wielded against girls, and I love how nuanced the conversation is. For instance, Marin’s best friend, Chloe, who she thought would be her biggest supporter, ends up becoming her biggest enemy. Chloe loves Bex, and because of that, Chloe doesn’t want to believe or acknowledge Marin’s experience. I appreciate this storyline, because it shows how sexism isn’t just about the relationship between men and women, but it’s also a huge element in women’s relationships too. Beyond that, Bushnell and Cotugno highlight other complicated factors, such as school dress codes, the feminine expression of sexuality, lack of diversity in positions of authority, and public opinion. It’s all utterly relatable and devastating, but also cathartic to examine the absurd way we’ve been raised.

With that being said, this book is not a preachy, highly didactic novel. Instead, it’s a gentle call to examine equality and the lack of it in our systems. This is a great book to gift to someone who may not yet understand what that means, as Marin is only starting to question that which is around her too. Beyond that, like in real life, Marin is so much more than what happens to her, and as a result, there are other plotlines separate from the incident with Bex— including her budding romance with Gray. I love Gray's character so much, and though I’m not sure what would come next in Marin’s story, I would totally read a second book to see what transpires between the two of them.

Overall, RULES FOR BEING A GIRL is a feminist, firecracker of a novel that does a great job at contextualizing the female experience.
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