Book Review: Rules for Being a Girl

Don’t just read Rules for Being a Girl…Experience it.

I read Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno because, well, Katie Cotugno. She just may be my favorite current YA author. I love how she writes strong female characters who tend to find themselves in impossible circumstances and are forced to stand up to injustice in a big way—often public—while facing harsh judgment. This book was no different, and I once again loved it.

Here we go: All Marin wants it to crush Senior year so she can get to Brown University and become a journalist. But when an encounter with everyone’s favorite teacher crosses the line, Marin is left feeling incredibly confused, a little guilty, but mostly horrified. So she decides to inform the administration of the transgression. Instead of being taken seriously, she is forced to attend school and class each day with the teacher that came on to her, the one who, along with her classmates, now has an agenda—to make her pay. Fortunately, Marin is made of strong stuff and she’s not about to back down without a fight.

As a former teacher, I know how seriously schools take the safety of students. It makes me sick to think that anyone would ever be put in a compromising position by any adult, especially one they should be able to trust. Luckily, I never encountered a situation like this in the school where I worked, but I did hear of them in other schools and know that’s why part of my annual beginning of the year training was over identifying warning signs of inappropriate behavior. It’s something I never took lightly.

When I read Rules for Being a Girl I was instantly reminded of one of my favorite shows, Veronica Mars. Going back and rewatching season 1, episode 14, “Mars vs. Mars” was a treat. Not because of the skeevy plot, but because of how fun it is to see Veronica’s snarky attitude and ingenuity. The premise of this episode of the high school based sleuth show was that when Neptune High’s popular teacher Mr. Rooks (played by Adam Scott of Parks and Rec and Party Down) is accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student, Veronica quickly takes his side vowing to prove his innocence. Coincidentally, her private eye father is hired by the girl’s family to prove the opposite. The drama unfolds with multiple twists, of course. I highly recommend this show, but I would start at the beginning.

I was also reminded of Jodi Picoult’s book, Salem Falls, which follows the story of Jack St. Bride, a former private school teacher accused of rape by a group of girls. After serving a sentence for the crime, he moves to a remote New England town and attempts to keep a low profile. However, he struggles to maintain the connections he makes there when rumors circulate about him and another group of girls accuse him of the same heinous crime.

All of these stories had some commonalities: a girl (or girls) came forward about inappropriate relations with a male teacher, the teacher denied the accusation, and the community took sides. Regardless of who was innocent and who was guilty, one thing was clear, no one ever really won. Reputations were ruined, facts were exaggerated, gossip circulated, people were judged, lives were impacted. And I don’t just mean for the guilty party. No matter the outcome, the innocent never got out unscathed. It may seem like a downer, but I will say each story also comes with a side of hope. Each story is as compelling as it is because someone stood up and refused to stay quiet about an injustice.

There you have it. Do yourself a favor and read Rules for Being a Girl. As you read Marin’s story, consider how this story compares to other forms of media addressing this issue. Are you reminded of another book or show that speaks of this particular injustice? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

If you haven’t already read Rules for Being a Girl, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do—don’t just read it, experience it!

Want information about purchasing this book from Neighborhood Reads, a local Washington, MO book store? Click the book cover above!

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