What Girls Are Made Of, Elana K. Arnold
I am all for girls talking about their bodies and for sex being something that isn't just for men. But I am also in favour of those discussions being led by parents, big sisters, aunts and trusted family friends. I get that unfortunately many a teen fails to enjoy this open dialogue, but unfortunately don't consider Arnold's representation of the subject a healthy alternative. Arnold writes well. She's sharp, witty, and consistently graphically gritty-real -- which isn't my favourite kind.
The 16-year-old anti-hero of this story spends extensive time subjugated in a predominantly sexual relationship and treats a peer cruelly. Although there are sort-of consequences for irresponsible choices, for the most part she wards against the hard-hitting stuff or washes her hands of really dealing with the repercussions of her choices. In addition to this 16-year-olds explicit sexual scenes and rose-tinted-glasses-off body talk, there is a fair amount of swearing and alcohol use. I know for some girls this is all happening and all very real. But I also know that popular culture isn't leaning towards persuading the girls who aren't in this place that their place is okay too.
Some readers appreciate Arnold writes about things others won't talk to you about. It's a truly sad thing those readers don't have someone talking to them about these things. But this book is not the crash course I would want any young woman I know to have. If a young woman has already personally experienced much of what is detailed within, this isn't the reinforcement I'd wish she read either. Yes, the protag knows she was a jerk, but she doesn't seem that sorry about it.
I'm disappointed the answer to "What Girls Are Made Of?" is not, "A diverse spectrum of things -- conservative, adventurous, beautiful, brave, shy, capable, worthy of love, respectable -- we are all so different and all deserve to be loved as we find our way." Instead it is more like, "We're sexual, subordinate, spiteful, lonely and did I mention, sexual? And we are d*mn-well allowed to be!" The problem with this answer is that some girls may feel they are those things, but "girls" are not those things and they are sucky things to be defined by. I've seen a lot of reviews saying this one is for the feminists. I completely disagree. This book is for those who are anti-taboo; for those who wolf-whistle when they find a work that holds nothing sacred; "YUS, FREEDOM OF SPEECH!" That is not the same as being a feminist. Being vulgar and reserving nothing as private is not a feminist requirement, just like aiming for dignity and respect in regards to sexual discussions doesn't disqualify me from being a feminist. I am all for equal women's rights; describing my husband's penis to you doesn't achieve that. The end.
Review copy received from Walker. Book out today...if you're like, "Heck yes, I love books that are shameless and we all should be!"
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