Girl In Pieces meets Moxie in this unflinching exploration of the many forms of abuse society inflicts upon women, and the strength it takes to rise above it all to claim your worth.
The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions. Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true?
Some girls want to rally for his expulsion—and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.
Review: 3 Stars
I was really excited to read What Kind of Girl for many reasons. I had previously read A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B Sheinmel (check out my review here) and really wanted to check out her latest book about the after effects of domestic abuse. What Kind of Girl explored domestic abuse, anxiety, OCD, victim blaming, self harm and bulimia. I was thinking of this book recently when I covered books with mental health representation for Top 5 Saturday and after reading I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one.
There were a lot of things that I really liked about What Kind of Girl. The chapters in part one and two start with headers like the popular girl, the burnout and the girlfriend and all throughout part one I thought that each chapter was about a different person. It wasn’t until I started reading part two that I realized that all of part one was actually from the same perspective and it was trying to show that one girl could have many different sides to her. Even though I was confused I think that it made my reading experience interesting when I realized that all of part one was actually the same perspective. I found myself looking back at those chapters and I was really able to see how a person is bigger than the roles or stereotypes that they fit in and I think the fact that I didn’t realize that part one was all from one perspective really helped make that idea have a bigger impact on me as a reader. Maya was all of those roles, she was the burnout, the popular girl, the girlfriend and the bulimic, but she was also so much more than any of those things and my reading experience, while confusing, really helped bring that point home.
I really liked how this book helped humanize mental illness. Maya was super easy to relate to, so it was easy to find yourself understanding all of the thoughts that went through her head and find yourself in her shoes. I felt like Junie was a good character, but I found her a little less easy to relate to and I felt like she just didn’t feel as real to me. I don’t know if that is because of a lack of character development, or if I just didn’t relate to her issues as much as I did with Maya’s issues. I found myself emotionally involved in the abuse part of this story. I was so angry at Mike and all of the other students that wouldn’t believe Maya. I loved Maya and I really felt for her and everything that she went through.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was the way this book explored victim blaming and self blame for domestic abuse. I think that it really dove into the harmful thoughts and things that people say after someone came forward with abuse and also really helped me understand the different perspectives. I think that the domestic abuse parts were done pretty well. I think that the mental health issues were also represented pretty well for most of the book. While I’m not an own voices reader for all of these issues, I think the ones that I have experienced were represented really well.
But when talking about how this book dealt with mental illness I also need to bring up my biggest problem with this book, which is it’s ending. I really hated the ending and how mental illness was used as a plot device. By the end of the book everything is all wrapped up and the girls are going to get treatment for their illnesses and they told the people closest to them the truth about the things they’ve been going through. It’s not that that’s not a viable ending, but it’s that it didn’t feel believable in these circumstances and it felt a little too much like an after school special ending that we were supposed to learn a lesson from. The fact that these characters’ mental illnesses magically got better and they magically decided to tell the truth about EVERYTHING to their parents and then go get therapy just felt a little far fetched for the situations.
Overall I think that there were good things and bad things about this book. I think that for the most part the mental illness representation was pretty good, but I can’t say for sure about all of the issues explored in the book. Bu it really annoyed me how Maya and Junie got magically better right in time for the ending because it just didn’t feel real. Despite some of the issues I had with What Kind of Girl I still totally think that it was worth reading because it opened my eyes to the impact that victim blaming can truly have.