Feminism alert!! If you couldn’t tell, I love a book with feminism as it’s theme especially when it’s a YA book. I will forever be amazed at what teenagers know these days when it comes to feminism. I was still covered in internalized misogyny and they are talking about intersectionality and toxic masculinity. I LOVE to see it!
Rules for Being a Girl tells the story that is all too familiar. A teacher is inappropriate with a student and when the student comes forward, she is not believed and then put through hell. I almost stabbed my computer while reading. Let’s get to the review!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It starts before you can even remember: You learn the rules for being a girl. . . .
Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.
But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?
When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.
But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules
Marin just wants to fit in and be liked and so far in her high school career, she’s been pretty great at that. She’s got good grades, she edits the school newspaper with her best friend, and she’s on her way to Brown University if everything goes as planned. She even has her English teacher, Mr. Beckett (aka Bex), telling her how great her writing is.
But Bex is not the great person he seems (excuse me while I puke). One day, Bex tells Marin that the book he’s been wanting to give her for months is still at his apartment so why don’t they go over there together to go get it…
(MY 30-YEAR-OLD BRAIN IS ON FIRE WITH THE AMOUNT OF RED FLAGS AND SIRENS GOING OFF.)
When they get there, everything seems to be normal until…Bex kisses her.
Have you ever wanted to set an apartment on fire?? Because I would like to set Bex’s apartment on fire.
Marin immediately pulls away and is like WTF!! which I really appreciated. A lot of books don’t have the character recognize when a bad/wrong thing has happened (and we will get into that in a minute), but this one does. Marin is immediately like “BYE BYE!” and runs out of the apartment.
What follows is what you might expect if you’ve been paying attention to the news or social media over the past year or two.
At first, Marin wonders what she did to make him do that. Did she lead him on or did she give some indication that it was ok? (of course NOT!) Then she wonders if she should tell somebody and if so, who?
The first person she tells is her best friend, Chloe and… let’s just say, it doesn’t go well. Then Bex talks to her about what happened to make sure they are “ok”. That leads to Marin writing a scathing and perfect article/essay for the school newspaper about the rules girls have to follow that boys don’t.
Needless to say, it BLOWS UP!
And she loses her best friend and boyfriend (who is a major douche), and when she eventually does tell the administration what happened, they don’t believe her so she has to continue to have class with Mr. Asshat.
But one teacher does take an interest in her and together they start a feminist book club. It’s a small step, but it gives Marin a way to talk about issues that are affecting her. It also shows her that other people at her school feel the same way she does.
AND…it also introduces her to a boy named Grey. She knew him before but didn’t realize how lovely, nice, sweet he was.
Through the book club, she find new friends who support her, new purpose, and new confidence. It also gives her a support system to lean on when the school won’t do anything about Bex and everyone else seems to be against her.
But Marin, along with her parents, won’t give up. Marin even commits a bit of vandalism (I FULLY APPROVE #teamMarin) when Bex tries to use his influence to stop her from achieving her dreams. Angry girls and woman with revenge on the mind are kind of my jam.
As Marin’s article makes it’s way through the school, she finds out she’s not the only one Bex abused. With more girls affected, the school finally starts to take notice and do something about it.
I loved this book. It’s teen girls fighting for what they deserve! What more could you want? I wasn’t thrilled with the ending but that’s more a me situation than due to any issues with the book. The ending makes me want a sequel which is probably a good thing.
Marin is a star of a main character and while her sister, Grace, wasn’t in it a ton, I loved their interactions. They made my feminist heart glow. I also loved Marin’s relationship with Grey. He definitely wasn’t what she expected and I liked that she was able to let him in despite having a bad experience with a dude. He proved his worth.
I also really appreciated how the book handled the girls who Bex preyed upon who didn’t immediately think of his actions as bad. Marin knew right off the bat that what he did was wrong, but not all girls would know or feel sure enough to say no.
Teen girls shouldn’t have to deal with this bullshit to begin with. Knowing whether an adult’s behavior is harmful or not can be so confusing and a clusterfuck to your head. The book gives these girls a voice as well and I love that.
Rules for Being a Girl reminded me of Moxie and Rebel Girls and if you’ve read those, you will LOVE this. I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars. I love these types of books where girls fight real life problems. I just hope we see more of them with teens of color (if you know any, PLEASE tell me in the comments).
Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno comes out April 7, 2020.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer and Bray for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.