Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

‘Slut or Saint? Good or bad friend? In control or completely out of it?

 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 the other girls were as sensible and strong. Like the pack of freshmen yearning to be football player’s playthings. Or her best friend, whose crappy judgment nearly ruined her life.

But being sensible and strong isn’t easy. Not when Natalie nearly gets expelled anyway. Not when her advice hurts more than 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.’

This book didn’t set my heart racing and it was a far more serious read than I was expecting, but I found it very well-written. The story itself is pretty basic and takes place over a relatively short period of time, following every-day events that shape the growth, maturity and self-acceptance of a young woman. It is an insightful read and an important one I think. There is a touching love story, with several tingly scenes for those who love a romantic storyline, but the relationship doesn’t take centre stage. The focus of this novel isn’t about falling in love, or the typical studious girl attracting the attention of the most popular boy in school.

Not That Kind of Girl is essentially about feminism, about having the conviction and confidence to be yourself, to fight against labels no matter how others may see you. It introduces some of the difficult choices, and the expectations and judgments that young women face from fellow classmates and adults alike. It explores the stereotypes that are still so prevalent in our society thoughtfully, within a contemporary, recognizable environment.

Natalie is a unique protagonist. Her character both frustrated and endeared me. She is highly judgmental, strict and overly serious, who looks down on almost everyone around her. Her patronising attitude and superiority made her a difficult character to sympathise with at times, but I understood her fears. And I grew to care about her. She came across to me as human, at times incredibly fragile. Her naivety and inability to see that rather than empowering herself and the girls around her, her thoughts and actions often betray a her own subconscious sexism.

Spencer is a treat of a character, representing a contrasting view to Natalie’s opinion on how a young woman should act. Like Natalie, she is at times misguided, but there is a strength and kindness to her character that I just loved, not at all your typical ‘popular’ girl. Seen from Natalie’s point of view, we are immediately set up to be wary and distrustful of her, but it is Spencer who shows us often there is nothing is more oppressive then women judging women.

Conor – what can I say? It was fantastic to read about a normal, caring, confident, nice guy for once in YA. He is definitely swoon worthy and he doesn’t act like a jerk to Natalie to be so. The relationship between them was totally believable and was build up perfectly with some great tension. Big congrats out to Vivian for this.

Despite the somewhat ‘weighty’ subject matter Not That Kind of Girl is a light, highly enjoyable read. Adult readers will probably find this small book relatively quick to get through, and it’s size will appeal to less enthusiastic readers. Those who generally enjoy action and adventure stories should give this a chance. It is a quiet, steady book and one that I feel is important that young women in particular read.

Cover: The cover is quite perfect and captures a yearning and vulnerability between the girl and the guy that I definitely felt within the relationship of Natalie and Connor while reading.

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

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