[REVIEW] “Rules for Being a Girl” By: Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

Official Synopsis:

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.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review:

This contemporary young adult feminist novel is riddled with ideas and situations that, unfortunately, most, if not all girls, can relate to. At the very least, the dress code is very relatable.

Obviously I knew what the book was about when I started it. Still, it was easy to see why Marin and Bex got along. He seemed to be the ideal teacher — easygoing, providing additional learning materials, going out of his way to help his students, easy to talk to — all qualities of really great educators. Aside from some “you’re so mature” comments, there aren’t many glaring red flags — the context made me more aware of them, since I was looking for them, but if I were in that situation, I would just think those flags were kind of weird, not necessarily red flags. As a reader, you don’t just want to like him, you do. Which is what makes him so dangerous. I think the scariest part is that he seems like the kind of person that students could confide in if something like what he does to his students happens to them. Not to mention, students like Marin will now have major trust issues with other male teachers and college professors because they’ll be afraid that their kindness is actually sinister and that educator has an ulterior motive.

Bex’s likability quickly disappears based on his later actions, without giving anything away, his later actions greatly alter the course of Marin’s plans, which I am still angry about.

I was surprised that Marin never confided in another one of her teachers after she (Marin) went to the administration, etc. As the faculty advisor for their book club, I would have thought that Marin would have talked to her more about what was going on. Still, she had trusted Bex, and look what he did (and the administration, including the principal, didn’t believe her), so it does make sense that she wouldn’t want to talk about it anymore at school.

Don’t even get me started on the gross mishandling of the high school — I’m not sure about protocol, but it seems like it would’ve been a good idea for the administration to reach out to Bex’s former employer to find out if he had any allegations reported against him. That seems like common sense. I get especially frustrated with it, since my family has dealt with the administration at my college — not for an issue like this, but a Title IX issue, and even with full admittance of guilt, the school has barely done anything — definitely not everything they could have — so I’m disappointed, but not surprised. I’m glad that Bushnell and Cotugno don’t make the school on Marin’s side, because they rarely are. Another rich man being coddled by an education administration? Wow. What a shocker.

Marin’s boyfriend, Jacob, was a great example of how boys don’t get the microaggressions that are thrown at girls all the time, example, the rigid rules for girls on the dress code, but lax for the boys.

I was able to guess some of the reveals (“reveal” is a strong word, I mean some plot points), but I think that they worked very well and realistically. Even though there’s some romance between Marin and one of her classmates, I wouldn’t consider this to be a romance book. She struggles a lot with her best friend, Chloe, which is resolved by the end, and makes some great new friends (which may or may not include a cute player on the lacrosse team) along the way.

The dynamic of their book club was fun to read about. I’m involved with the book club at my college, and the depiction was relatable — kids from various majors and other extracurriculars meeting to talk about books (well, sometimes), and different people bring a random assortment of snacks each time? Yeah, very relatable.

I’m really proud of how Marin eventually handles the situation — granted, many times I wanted to reach through the pages and yell at her to tell her mom, but considering the reaction of the people she did tell, it’s not surprising. Marin’s relationship with her Gram, who has Alzheimer’s, was both sweet and heartbreaking. Her family was always really supportive, both of her and the articles that she was writing for the school newspaper.

I know this is a long review, so I’m going to wrap it up — clearly I could keep talking about the book all day! Overall, this was a really great book that explored a lot of relatable and complex issues that need to be acknowledged and talked about — I think this would make a really great movie, because reading versus seeing something on screen are totally different experiences. It would really drive home how messed up and predatory Bex is, since he is often described as being young/young-looking, which continually makes him and his students seem closer in age/maturity than they are — especially if they didn’t cast an actress who looks like she’s in her 20s. I highly recommend that girls and boys read this book. It might be young adult, but the message can resonate with all ages.

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