Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Me on Girl Mans Up

Title: Girl Mans Up
Author: M-E Girard
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins imprint)

All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she's always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she's trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she's not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she'll have to man up.

Girl Mans Up is an eye-opening look at gender, sexuality, relationships, and family. Those moments when we're trying to figure ourselves out, struggling to find all the answers, and trying to understand when people want impossible things from us.

Pen is smart and kind, she's great at video games, but she's struggling to come to terms with a number of things. With the things Colby asks of her, how he uses her to pick of girls and also to keep them away after he breaks up with them. With the things her mother demands of her, like learning how to cook Portuguese dishes and wearing nice dresses instead of jeans and baggy shirts like her brother wears. She sort of knows who she is, who she wants to be. She likes girls, wants to date girls, and she wants the freedom to dress comfortably. As she does this, as she starts to be the Pen she's always wanted to be, she bumps up against the walls of expectation.

The idea of family and loyalty runs strong in this book. The different things, the different people, we give our time to, that we believe in and give our trust to. But what about when giving that time and respect hurts you? What about when you find that it's not worth it anymore? When you're being crushed under the weight of loyalty and respect, physically and mentally? Pen is grasping for solutions, wanting everyone to stop yelling, her mother to stop crying, her friends to stop teasing. She she wants the chance to be who she is. A girl who likes girls, who wants to date girls. A girl who wants to wear jeans and baggy clothes and have short hair. As time goes on, Pen finds it harder to respect those who demand it from her. And why should she, when they don't respect her in return?

This book was a little hard to take, but still necessary. Sometimes friendships are toxic but they're hard to escape. Sometimes familial relationships cause us pain and stress but we can't leave. Sometimes people try to change us, try to force us into being someone we don't want to be, but we're still not sure who we want to be. This story is a harsh one, a rough and honest one. A look at identity and accepting that being honest with ourselves, with who we want to be, isn't always the same as what others want from us. Which is perfectly fine. We don't exist to serve the whims of others, to bow down to their demands and hide our true selves. Our identities are our own, and no one can tell us who we should be.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)

No comments:

Post a Comment