Title: Not That Kind of Girl
Author: Siobhan Vivian
ISBN: 9780545169158
Pages: 322 pages
Publisher/Date: PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2010.

“I don’t think what you were doing was sexy,” I told Spencer as gently as I could. “You were trying to get attention.”
Spencer smiled. “See? That’s what I mean. That’s what we should be talking about tonight! Boys can mess around and do whatever they want to without consequence. But not us girls. We’re not allowed to have sexual needs.”
“Sexual needs? Are you serious? You’re fourteen.”
“I don’t know what my age has to do with anything. […] Look, I don’t do things I’m not comfortable with. I am always in control. And anyway, what right is it for anyone else to tell me what I can do and can’t do with my body? I won’t be villainized because I happen to like being sexual. I’m not going to be embarrassed. It seems that this school has a real problem with that sort of thing.” Spencer gave a pointed look at Autumn, which everyone noticed. “Forcing girls to be ashamed for doing the things that come natural to them — it’s a ridiculous double standard, and we should all, frankly, tell anyone who judges us to screw off.” (132-133)

Senior Natalie Sterling takes pride in being the good girl. She’s a member of the student council, a straight-A student, and avoids the jerky jocks at her prep school. She wishes to impart her wisdom on the rest of the guy-obsessed female student population that not everything revolves around getting the attention of the football team. Her beliefs are strongly challenged though as she tries to help a freshman acquaintance adopt her standards, with disastrous results. Now Natalie is forced to question her own beliefs about guys and feminine power as she tries to publicly maintain her composure and saintly status. Who is right is anyone’s guess.

I had this book described to me as the most realistic portrayal of high school she had ever read. I agree that each of the characters has their own depth. Natalie has lived in her own little over-achieving world for years. She holds herself in this little bubble of unrecognized superiority because she hasn’t belittled herself by pursuing boys. Her confidence in herself really shines in the beginning of the novel, because her beliefs have never been challenged.

But then Spencer literally rocks her world. Spencer, who is just as confident in her beliefs as Natalie, is not afraid to debate her opinions and holds her ground extremely well. This book hit home for me because I was Natalie in high school, an over achieving academic who was uninterested in boys and uncomprehending as to why girls were so intent on snagging a boy friend.

But maybe because it hit home for me is why I’m somewhat conflicted with the ending. I’m sorry I can’t go into more detail than that, but I don’t want to give anything away. Maybe the ending was meant to elicit conflicting emotions, because you don’t get a clean-cut answer. Neither Spencer nor Natalie end up being completely black or white on the issues. What readers do take away from the book is that you have to make your own decisions in a way that you’re comfortable with them and can live with them. You don’t have to justify your answers to anyone but yourself, and your true friends won’t ask for justification. An even better way to put it: Those who matter won’t mind and those who mind don’t matter. This might end up being my next book club selection, since it seems to be an all girls group by default and this book would definitely not appeal to guys.

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