Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
published September 2010 by Scholastic
336 pages (hardcover), YA
YA Reading Challenge

I don't usually use blurbs, but this one said all I wanted to say. From the dust jacket:
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 freshmen yearning to be football players' 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 was good. I can't believe how many negative reviews I read for it, though. Most of them cried the same - Natalie's not a likable or a relatable character. Well, no, she's not very friendly or approachable. She's goal-oriented, with very little people skills and a know-it-all attitude. Reviewers said that made her unbelievable, that they'd never met anyone like her in real life. Really? I certainly have! Especially in a teenage girl who is trying so hard not to let boys and high school drama rule her life. Who wants desperately to be successful - to leave a legacy behind and make a name for herself in all that she does. Who acutely feels the pressure of being a female in a male-dominated society, to the point where she cannot see beyond herself. Yes, I've known (and know still) girls and women like that. Natalie is determined to be assertive in all that she does, and she sometimes fails to see how that hurts others. So, sure, she has flaws, and she is slow to realize them, and we don't really get to see her change her ways, but there are morsels of hope by the end of this book.

One reviewer also said that when dealing with teens and sex, there's no need for subtlety. Others called the book preachy. I don't know that it was either. I suppose I'd lean towards the subtle side. It was complex, that's for sure, and Vivian didn't attempt to explain away all the iffy decisions Natalie and her small group of almost-friends made. There is much room for interpretation and discussion in this book, and that's why I liked it so. The characters were developed just enough that you could guess why they did and said the things they did but not too much that it was spelled out for you.

I wish I had this book in high school. I might have questioned more and thought of absolutes less. Even looking at the title, I cringe when I think about how many times I've probably said those words about myself. So damaging - to myself and other girls. Because isn't that how you say it? I'm not that kind of girl. Like you're better than that girl. You have higher standards, morals, ethics, whatever. And those kinds of girls are all the same, lumped in the same category, on the receiving end of your disdain. Too much measuring, too much hate - let's all just be ourselves and be happy with each other, okay?

Anyhow, back to the book. Another fantastic YA read - goodness, I'm on a roll! Go read it. Have thoughts of your own. Share them, please. :) Four purple crayons from this Natalie.



Jennifer said...

I skimmed all of Vivian's books - this wasn't my favorite, but it was interesting. and why did I, non-ya-reader, skim said books? Because she is visiting our library this summer! yes! I really liked A Little Friendly Advice and I meant to just skim Same Difference dragged me in.

Jan von Harz said...

Natalie, this is a wonderful review. I am with you on preferring a more subtle approach to teen sex in books, and Natalie Sterling sounds like a girl to be admired for her goals and steering clear of girl drama.

While I probably wouldn't have picked this book up because I am not into teenage romance type books, I now want to read it simply because of Vivian's characterization of Natalie.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Wow, this review and the conflicted reviews that the book got have made me add it to my list. I love the cover and am looking forward to forming an opinion on it myself. AFter, of course, I finish the three I've already downloaded. . . ugh, darn technology LOL!

Em (Super Reader Girl) said...

What a detailed and thoughtful review! I hadn't heard of this book, but just may be adding it to my list now! :)

Thanks for hopping by my blog today!

Candace said...

Hi Natalie, thanks for stopping by my blog! I had to come check you out in return and love your blog! And am now a follower ;)

Now onto the review. I think you did a great job explaining your feelings. I only read one review for this book and it was the friend who I borrowed it from and she described Natalie like Paris in Gilmore Girls and that alone made me want to read this. I love unique characters and Natalie was certainly that! I didn't like her, and I didn't hate her~ but I did love having a unique MC.
I too prefer subtlety in YA and I thought the romance was good, but wasn't really the main thing. I would say that even those that don't like YA romance could still enjoy this one.

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