Rules for Being a Girl
Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.
But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?
When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.
But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules.
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.