Primary Genre(s): Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Published: 4 February 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire
Page count: 384
My Format: eARC via NetGalley
Would I recommend it: Maybe
Commission Link: Buy What Kind of Girl
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions. Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true?
Some girls want to rally for his expulsion—and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.
This author wrote one of my favorite unreliable narrator books – A Danger To Herself And Others. I was so excited to see that she had another book out that I requested a copy ASAP! I couldn’t wait to read it. Sadly, this one wasn’t as enjoyable. Here are my pros and cons for What Kind of Girl:
- This book is about much more than just a boy allegedly hitting his girlfriend (which is also a con for me, see Con #1). It also talks about multiple mental health and abuse issues, including self-harm. I do not have any of the mental health issues that were discussed in this book; however, as a person who doesn’t understand and is uneducated about self-harm, I felt like the thoughts and feelings of a person that does self-harm were explained very well in this book. I felt like I got a little bit into her head and started to understand what self-harm did for her mentally. Even if I personally can’t fathom how hurting one’s self could possibly be a positive thing, I feel like I at least understood why she felt that way. She was the most genuine character in the whole book. She was the one I cared about. She was the one I was interested in. She was the one I wanted to succeed and get help and get healthy. She was the one I wanted to read about. Honestly? The rest of the book was just unfocused noise to me.
- This book lacks focus. Is this about a girl who is hit by her boyfriend? Or is it about bulimia, self-harm, drug use, OCD, negative parent/child relationships, etc.? If the author was trying to draw attention to multiple mental health and abuse issues, she failed… because most of them didn’t get any real focus at all and everything was diluted.
- The little game the author played at the beginning of the book fell totally flat for me. Each chapter was narrated by a “kind” of girl – the burnout, the girlfriend, the popular girl, the bulimic. You don’t know who these girls are until the end of Part 1 of the book. Then Part 2 starts in a similar way, but you already know the twist so it is no longer effective… and then the format just disappears. Very weird.
- I actually started to get a bit confused between the two main female characters. They were so similar to me that I found myself having to pay very close attention to which character was which. There simply wasn’t enough distinction between them (unless they were talking about their specific mental health/abuse issues) to keep them apart.
- I’ve never read a book that started so many sentences with “maybe” (e.g., maybe they think I’m stupid, maybe they think I’m ugly, maybe my parents won’t understand, maybe they will like my clothes, maybe they won’t notice, etc.). I understand the “why” behind it (the girls are constantly experiencing self-doubt, low self-esteem, and are continuously questioning everything), but reading those numerous “maybe” statements throughout the book was distracting and repetitive to the extreme.
- This book has an unresolved ending and it is INFURIATING!
I have to be honest here… I really started to think this was another unreliable narrator story. Since the author wrote such a compelling unreliable narrator novel for her debut, it made me wonder if she was doing that again. With all the flip-flopping, lying, questioning, emphasis on some extreme mental health issues, and just everything that happened in this book, I really wonder if the purpose was to prove that we, as the reader, don’t really know anything about what happened other than what we were told. And if there is anything I have learned in this life it is that what we are told is not always fact. People lie all the time. Now, I am not saying the girl in this book wasn’t hit by her boyfriend. If I’m honest, I tend to think he did. However, we didn’t really get facts – just two sides to a story (and very little of Mike’s side actually), a black eye, and an unresolved ending. I really have to wonder if this book was an experiment just to see how readers react to an accusation.
I have so many thoughts on domestic abuse. I know someone who shot her husband because she was abused horribly and no one would help her even though she reported it. This is an extreme circumstance for sure, and happened decades ago, but she had to get out of the situation somehow and she did what she felt was necessary to end the situation (by the way, the man didn’t die, but she was able to get away finally). On the flip side of that, I also know a man who was falsely accused by a woman of horrible things out of sheer vindictiveness. Yes, that absolutely happens – women do lie about things like this and there have been a lot of high profile cases of such in the news in the past few decades, not to mention the ones you never hear about. So even though I do tend to think Mike hit his girlfriend, I wasn’t there and I can’t possibly know the truth. As such, I also believe he has the right to defend himself.
This book obviously made me think and my head is all over the place. I almost considered not writing this review altogether to be honest. As a book, it wasn’t that compelling as written and I initially gave it 2 stars (considering all of my cons). However, what the book made me think about afterwards was more complex. While I don’t think the book was necessarily a great read, if it sparks a discussion that is typically not a bad thing. Therefore, I bumped my rating up to 3 stars overall.
I will simply end with this:
- If you are being abused (male or female), report it and get help to stop the situation. Keep asking for help until you get it.
- Don’t accuse anyone (male or female) of abuse if it isn’t true. Crying wolf hurts everyone, but particularly those who are actually experiencing abuse and struggle to get folks to believe them.
- The accused (male or female) are innocent until proven guilty. Facts matter.
- Don’t automatically assume someone (male or female) could never commit abuse just because they are popular or handsome or rich or something else considered a positive attribute.
- Don’t automatically assume someone (male or female) is capable of abuse just because they are unpopular or uneducated or poor or something else considered a negative attribute.
- Don’t ever think “they asked for it” even if they (male or female) did something wrong (cheated, lied, didn’t call back, etc.)… because no one asks for it.
- If you (male or female) are guilty of abuse, stop. Get help, get counseling, do something… but stop.
Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy What Kind of Girl. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)