Title: What Kind of Girl
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Little Brown UK
Publication Date: 6th February 2020
‘He said we’d go to the same college, that we’d live in the same dorm, that we’d end up working in the same city after graduation. Doesn’t every girl dream that her boyfriend will love her like that?’
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.
In my opinion What Kind of Girl is exactly the kind of book I wish all teenagers and young adults would read. The story follows two girls, one of whom accuses her ‘golden boy’ boyfriend of hitting her. The ramifications of this accusation are felt throughout the girl’s school and community.
From the very beginning of this book one thing is made very clear and that is the sad truth that most of the time the victim in an abusive situation is put through much more invasive scrutiny than the perpetrator. What Kind of Girl perfectly encapsulates what I imagine a young woman in this situation would be thinking, for example, the myriad of ways she would question every move she makes and every word she says. It is a depressing but eminently truthful reaction and it is a direct result of the way society treats and judges women. It makes for a read that feels deeply honest and personal which is incredibly effective. I think young people sometimes feel like the term ‘domestic abuse’ doesn’t really apply to them because the violence perhaps doesn’t occur in a domestic environment. This could then lead to them feeling like what they are experiencing is not as serious. The term ‘relationship abuse’ seems to fit better and there needs to be more awareness of it’s existence amongst young people. Books like this are one of the ways this awareness can be achieved.
What Kind of Girl actually covers quite a few complex issues within it’s pages like self harm, eating disorders, OCD and anxiety. These are dealt with in a way that felt really authentic – to me at least. I think an important thing that this book does is show that mental health problems like the ones above are not always caused by an obvious massive trauma. Absolutely anyone can suffer mental health disorders and everyone’s suffering is valid and important. Equally important is the fact that people are made up of more than just one part – we are all many things at once and should not be defined by one aspect of ourselves. I have experiences with a few of the issues What Kind of Girl deals with and I think it is an honest representation of what it is like to deal with them and also how difficult it can be to accept help, plus how hard it sometimes is to give yourself a break and stop judging yourself so harshly.
Overall, I found What Kind of Girl engaging, realistic and the kind of book I wish teenagers were reading in schools. I would definitely recommend it, although do bear in mind the possible triggers before reading.
I received this e-arc through Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.