Book Title/Author: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Publisher/Year: Push (Goodreads & Amazon are conflicting — one says 2010 while the other says 2011)
Genre: YA Contemporary
Other Books From Author: The List, Burn For Burn, Same Difference, A Little Friendly Advice
Natalie is the good girl — she’s smart, an overachiever and is running for Student Council. She holds her reputation in the highest regard and knows what she wants out of a relationship and won’t accept anything less; much less the typical immature, jerk fare of her high school. She’s Type-A and has it in her mind how she and her friends should act as women. But do they agree with her about what kind of girl they should be? Soon she realizes that some of the closest people in her life might not completely share her opinions and are keeping secrets from her. The freshman girls are challenging Natalie’s ideals with their provocative take on female sexuality and boys she said she’d never give the time of day are suddenly surprising her into bending her own rules. How will Natalie continue to be that kind of girl she’s always thought she should be when so many things are threatening it?
I had heard everyone rave about this one and again felt super behind on my YA contemps since I started reading YA late in the game. The lovely Carla (formerly of The Crooked Shelf but now blogs over with the super fab Jen at Makeshift Bookmark) told me in her very convincing British accent that I MUST read it. So I did. And I really, really enjoyed it. Definitely a book I wish I would have read in high school and definitely a book I think could be such an amazing book for teen girls to discuss together! I will say that, as an adult, I felt I could SO appreciate this book and read it with a different lens.
I have to say – Natalie annoyed the hell out of me most of the time but I really loved her. But confession time? I think my annoyance was spawned from the fact I was SO SO like Natalie in high school. While I can’t say I was super uptight in general nor was I THAT high strung about school, I was such a “goodie-goodie” and had super high standards that I didn’t think most people didn’t live up to. Those girls talking about sex during homeroom? Yep, they were sluts. I didn’t need to know anything about them. I just knew I didn’t want to be like THEM. I wasn’t that type of girl. I didn’t dress like a “slut” nor did I sleep around. And that’s pretty much how Natalie was. We both were super judgey. I think that’s why she annoys me so much because I was coming face to face with my high school self. I’m glad I had my own standards but I needed to chill the EFF out.
So what I really loved about this book is that it opened up a FANTASTIC platform to talk about slut-shaming, feminism and sexuality. It wasn’t preachy and it didn’t say which “kind of girl” was the right path. You saw girls who were struggling to figure out who they were and their path and what was right for them. Natalie herself crosses her own lines (I think that a lot of us girls do that. “Oh I would NEVER DO THAT.”) and Spencer does see the downsides to some of her thinking. I loved the contrast of Natalie and Spencer (the freshman who dresses provocatively and openly talks about wanting to have sex with guys). Siobhan Vivian shows you sides of both that you might agree with and makes you think critically and challenge your notions of sexuality and feminism — despite who you identify with more. ALL while not being preachy. It was just so well done that I feel the need to slow clap and whistle (though I can’t really in real life). Just WOW. And I know this seems a lot like the whole point of Mean Girls — but seriously, this book shows that it’s SO important how we as women treat each other and judge each other. I JUST LOVED IT.
I can’t say I LOVED the romance but that, to me, wasn’t the shining part of this novel nor the point but I thought it DID have it’s place. It was ok but not my favorite. I’ll tell you that Siobhan really knows how to write characters — all of them. I could see them as real people that had roamed the hallways in my high school back in the day. I could feel the struggles. The pressures of high school, fitting in, determining your sexuality, being yourself. She writes it fabulously and flawlessly. I loved the journey Natalie went through and really grew to care about her and the other girls — their flaws, mistakes and all!
Not That Kind of Girl was truly remarkable! It opens a discussion about feminism/sexuality/slut-shaming in a way that is super easy to relate to and NOT PREACHY like some books end up being. The characterization is top notch, the high school setting was authentic and Siobhan Vivian causes you to take pause and think. I loved that. I’ll be recommending this to people who love contemporary YA books that speak to the normal struggles that girls encounter in high school and really beyond. There isn’t super angsty drama or crazy things that happen — but it tells the story of what a lot of girls go through in high school when trying to figure out what kind of girl they are and want to be.
For Fans Of: Realistic contemporary YA about normal struggles teens face, books dealing with feminism/sexuality in a non-preachy way, books that make you think, books with incredible characterization
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? I’m curious to know which girl you identified with more?