Be warned about these triggers: domestic violence, drug use, cheating,self-harm, bulimia, panic attacks.
This book would be very hard to rate for me.
It is not easy to read. Not because of the topic, even if there are really hard and triggering topics but because of the writing style.
Alyssa Sheinmel chose to have us BE in the girls heads. The first part we have many “girls” to follow: The Popular Girl, The Girlfriend, The Bulimic, The … So many different points of view. And a big surprise by the end of the first part.
The second part is about another set of girls: The burnout, the anxious girl, …
Every girl is thinking SO MUCH! They have so many inner dialogs, self-doubts, questions, fears, theories ….it was exhausting to read and also made for a very slow pacing. I was so confused in the beginning!
Yet even if the reading experience was laborious it was also genius to make us FEEL what these girls were going through. And I was thinking: “My God, they are so lost, alone, afraid. Being them must be exhausting.”
If I really had to rate the book it would be 3 stars as I am conflicted between the arduous reading experience yet conscious of the audacity and brilliance of the writing choice and topics broached.
Now what is this book about?
I don’t want to spoil your fun but the synopsis does not give many things to build upon yet triggers have to be mentioned.
This book is about “the girlfriend” who has been hit one time too many by Mike Parker, school golden boy, and decides to go to the school’s principal.
So one topic is about abuse.
The school and even parents will talk about it and people will question why she did not report Mike sooner as he beat her for months. She has to hide something right? Maybe he didn’t do it? Maybe she got confused? Surely, he is too polite, too good to do such thing right?
““Was it always this bad?” Mom gestures to my eye. I shake my head, and she looks relieved. She doesn’t want to think that I stayed when it was this bad. She wants to think that the minute it crossed the line (what line? Who says where the line is?), I stood up for myself. That’s what any self-respecting girl would do in this day and age. That’s the kind of girl she wants to believe she raised me to be. And she wants to think that if it had always been this bad, she would’ve seen it sooner.”
This topic is cleverly analyzed in all its complexity and contradictory emotions and choices.
But other girls are part of this story where the school takes sides.
You have the bulimic.
You have the anxious girl.
You have the burnout…
“But other people don’t understand how hurting yourself could possibly feel more right than not. Even though I know it shouldn’t.”
This story is a window into some very heavy suffering some teenagers (or even adults) go through when faced with high expectations and pressure. From teachers, from parents, from friends, from lovers …
Being a teenager is a hard time and that’s “What Kind of Girl” demonstrates. With enormous empathy and compassion for these girls who wear masks to meet what they think are others expectations.
It also shows that humans have so many facets and we choose the ones we want others to see, sometimes with grave consequences for our self being or others. No one is perfect, no one is made of only one facet and accepting them as a whole is liberating.
“I take my hands out of my pockets. They’re still shaking, just a little bit. But I’m done hiding them. I’m done hiding me.”
Reading this story is painful but reading this story is also eye opening and …just. We owe it to everyone going through rough times. To acknowledge and recognize their pain. To understand their torments. To let them know that they have the right to be loved for who they really are, flaws and all.
Have you read similar books? What do you think about books out of your comfort zone?
Thanks for reading!