Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Those Girls

Author: Lauren Saft
Genre: Young Adult
Type: Kindle e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Little, Brown Book for Young Readers
First Published: June 9, 2015
First Line: "Same shit, new year."

Book Description from GoodReadsSome girls will always have your back, and some girls can't help but stab you in it.  

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they're the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them--and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band--without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved--literally, figuratively, physically....she's not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever....or tears them apart for good? 

Lauren Saft masterfully conveys what goes on in the mind of a teenage girl, and her debut novel is raw, honest, hilarious, and thought-provoking, with a healthy dose of heart.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Little, Brown Book for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: Those Girls follows the lives of three teenage best friends.  It's deemed to be "raw, honest, hilarious, and thought-provoking, with a healthy dose of heart" and while I whole-heartedly agree that this book is raw and thought-provoking I have a hard time agreeing with the description of 'hilarious' or 'a healthy dose of heart'.  

Instead, what I will vividly remember from this book are the numerous, excessively sleazy and explicit descriptions of teen behaviour, sexual 'relationships', language and stereotypical characters.  It was a very disturbing and sad commentary on modern teens and maybe it's because (thankfully) these three teen girls bare no resemblance to any teenage girl I've ever met, but it felt like the movie Mean Girls meets Gossip Girl on steroids.  

Each girl had her own issue to deal with: Mollie - the Mean Girl with the eating disorder and a cheating boyfriend; Veronica - the lonely, excessively promiscuous party girl and Alex, the pot smoking loner who is secretly in love with her best friend.  Those are the three main characters and surprisingly it's Veronica who has any sort of transformation of the three even if it's fairly minimal in the end.

I have to admit that I never felt connected to any of the characters.  I realize that I'm not in the target audience (in fact I'm a Mom to two teens and a tween) but I still think that I should have felt some connection.  What was lacking in the characters were the reasons why they were the way they were.  What made Veronica so promiscuous?  Why was Mollie so mean?  The reader isn't given enough access into their pasts to understand why they are that way, leaving the girls to be caricatures of mean teens.  Instead the book is filled with scenes that are included for shock value instead of taking the time to develop the characters.  If those scenes were omitted I don't think there would be enough of a story to keep the average reader engaged.  

The final straw for me was when the story lines all culminate in a train wreck of revenge that affects all of their lives.  Unfortunately the end result of the revenge scene was handled too easily and flippantly for the seriousness of the action - especially the subsequent issue that happened to Veronica.  Sadly, the abrupt ending was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me.

As for humour?  There were a few amusing comments (mainly between Alex and Drew) but they were at a minimum.  I think that some of the name calling between the girls was supposed to be deemed funny but having her best friends call Veronica every type of slutty reference (whorebox, c*m guzzling crack whore ...) felt over the top and just generally icky.  I couldn't believe that these self-proclaimed BFFs would regularly call one of their own derogatory, shaming and self-esteem destroying names on a regular basis. 

If Saft was going for a raw book showcasing the social jungle that is high school I think she may have overshot her mark.  This book deals with many teen issues but to the point of excess - eating disorders, feeling abandoned by parents, promiscuity, sex, rape and a lack of importance on self respect, contraception, underage drinking and drug use ....  It was just too much.  Under it all, I believe the main issue for all three girls is trying desperately to fit in.  To be loved by their friends - warts and all - even when they're not sure they can trust each other or have enough faith in themselves.  Unfortunately I think that the excessive bad language and extreme sexual scenes detract from the opportunity that Saft had to bring some of these real teen issues to the forefront and deal with them in a believable and heart-felt way.  

My Rating: 2/5 stars

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