Not That Kind Of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
Life is about choices, and Natalie Sterling prides herself on making the right ones. She’s avoided the jerky guys populating her prep school, always topped honor roll, and is poised to be the first female student council president in years.
If only other girls were as sensible and strong. Like the pack of freshman yearning to be football players’ playthings. Or her best friend, whose crappy judgement ruined her life.
But being sensible and strong isn’t easy. Not when Natalie nearly gets expelled anyway. Not when her advice hurts more that it helps. Not when a boy she once dismissed becomes the boy she can’t stop thinking about.
The line between good and bad has gone fuzzy, and crossing it could end in disaster…or become the best choice she’ll ever make.
Here’s the scoop:
There are two kinds of girls, right? The kind who do the wrong thing and go all Skank City with the boys and the kind who do the right thing and keep it in their pants. Or, er, panties.
Well, Natalie Sterling is…wait for it….not that kind of girl. No way. She does the right thing. I mean like, ALL THE TIME. She’s extremely driven, aspires to be student body president (only the ninth female evah. Guess the rest of the girls were too busy doing the wrong thing), and she is certain that there is a specific way she wants to carry herself. And never, ever does she want to fraternize with any jerkface guys, including anyone on the football team. Natalie has learned through the tough experiences of others that those guys only want one thing: touchdowns. Okay and sex. And once they’re done, they toss girls aside like the dirty laundry. Natalie isn’t dumb enough to be fooled by them and she makes it her personal quest to remind her friends of the dangers of, um, scoring touchdowns.
Uh oh. One problem. She keeps having steamy makeouts with Connor, a football player who has the hots for her. No one must know, of course because this would ruin Natalie I tell you. Her life would be O-V-E-R! Or at least, that’s how she feels because then everyone would know what a big fat hypocrite she really is and that she actually likes having Connor’s tongue down her throat practically every night. Also, her mentor, Ms. Bee would be sorely disappointed because she believes Natalie to be an exemplary young woman, so different from all the other cheeseheads who care about guys.
This book has such fantastic views on feminism and female roles in general. Is a girl who knowingly plays up her sexuality being used by the very guys she’s playing for? And is it wrong for a guy to eat up the salacious flirtation of a girl who’s really just trying to bring out his inner horndog tendencies? And who made up all these corny rules anyway? It should go without saying that most times there is clearly right and wrong. When a girl (or guy) says “no” it means no. They shouldn’t be harassed or mocked because of it. Yet does the rule go the opposite way as well? Should people be mocked for saying “yes”? And are you less of a feminist if you are a girl who likes to be viewed as attractive or who likes guys more than school?
With all the interesting questions posed, it would have been easy for this book to become preachy. Instead, I found that it showed multiple views on male/female roles, relationships and sex without attempting to persuade the reader to choose one side or the other. The merits of being a “good girl” are shown right alongside the more difficult aspects. Along the same line, the manipulative girls are shown as well, including the rush of power behind their actions and the consequences of such behavior.
I had two issues with the story. First, I absolutely hated Natalie. This is not the fault of the wonderful author, Siobhan Vivian. It was because Natalie reminded be so much of myself as a teenager that I could barely stomach her. She’s a closed-minded, judgemental girl who thinks that those who don’t do as she does have no self-respect. (I assure you that this has changed in me and though I still have strong ideas about right and wrong, I’m a live and let live girl. But since the tendency to be judgey will always be there, Natalie bristled at me, reminding me of my own faults.) I think Natalie was intended to make the reader feel this way. We can all relate to her tendency to turn up her nose and at the same time, we all struggle with the ideas of what we’re expected to be.
My other issue is related to Connor. We know Connor is mega hot. We know he’s nice and he does sweet things for Natalie, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand why he was interested in her. She would have these steamy makeouts with him in his back shed, totally hidden from everyone else, and then at school she’d barely acknowledge him, clearly mortified at anyone finding out about them. I know he got the benefit of the tonsil hockey, but Connor was portrayed as a popular guy who could have probably gotten that with just about anyone. For some reason, he really liked Natalie and I just didn’t totally get that.
The best thing about Not That Kind of Girl was that it explored feminine roles from many angles. This spoke to me because my husband and I live a kind of 1950’s Leave it to Beaver sort of lifestyle where I am a stay at home mom and he’s out bringin’ home the bacon. This was all by choice. I wanted to leave my career to be with my kids full-time (even if it meant I’d take over the laundry. Ugh!) and I love it. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done. BUT, I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen or heard so-called feminists who frown upon doing what I have. And on the opposite side, I see stay at home moms who criticize the women who choose to keep their careers after motherhood. As far as I’m concerned, this is my new high school drama; we don’t care who’s a virgin anymore since that stuff is old news. Now it’s about life choices—the way we parent, are we married or divorced, and what type of career we have. Yet I’ve always been led to believe that feminism is about choice; about not being pigeonholed into a particular role, but being free to be the woman you want to be–but that doesn’t always seem to be the case.
So even though this book deals with high school issues, it opens up questions about the bigger picture and what it exactly it means to be a woman, to be a feminist and what it means to be happy with yourself and your choices, regardless of what others may have to say about it.
Crush Intensity: 2/5 and 4/5??? I’m torn here because I didn’t LOVE this book. I know part of it has to do with Natalie, (does this mean she was well-written? Probably, because I liked her more as she became more open-minded) but part of it was just that I’d heard a ton of great buzz and it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped. On the other hand, I loved that the story challenged me to look inward and to recognize the way we all tend to box ourselves and one another into little preconceived roles. So in the end, it’s a solid read, just not one I’d pick up again.
Soundtrack: Preach it Gwen (and the rest of No Doubt)!