Title: What Kind of Girl
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Release Date: February 4 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.94 (of 178 ratings)
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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?
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire through NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
From a young age, I knew that “domestic abuse” was when a man hit his wife, and that it was wrong, and that no woman should ever tolerate that kind of behaviour. Dr. Phil was my main professor on the topic, bringing women on stage to tell them in no uncertain terms that it was not okay. It took much longer before I realized, “Oh, wait, women can abuse a man?” and even longer before I caught on to violence in LGBTQ+ couples and emotional abuse.
WHY? Um, simple. Unless you’re experiencing one of these situations first- or second-hand, no one is talking about them. Schools are not teaching students how to handle relationship abuse. Parents will drop the “treat my daughter well, haha!” line, but who believes their child is being battered/manipulated?
The fact that Sheinmel wonderfully illustrates in her novel is that we don’t expect teens to deal with relationship abuse. So we don’t prepare them for it.
I haven’t started talking about What Kind of Girl yet, but in a way, I am? This book has made relationship abuse—the survivor’s emotions, the relations’ feelings, the courses of action—accessible to teens. (Who enjoys reading What to Do if You’re in a Bad Relationship pamphlets?)
Mike Parker’s girlfriend, Maya, is a mess of emotions throughout the book. She struggles with self-identification after coming forwards to her school principal. Is she still “Mike Parker’s girlfriend”? Is she only “the girl who was abused” or “the girl who lied about abuse”? I have not experienced relationship abuse, but Maya’s thoughts gave me insight into some of the feelings a person may have during or after an abusive relationship. I hope some of that insight may help me help someone else one day.
Aside from Maya’s relationship, What Kind of Girl deals with bulimia, self-harm, self-medication, and self-image. Each topic was given its time to expand and be explored. The endings to each plot point could be called HEAs, as they are resolved quite timely, but I had no issue with this.
rating: An Aurora rating for a book that truly showed up with clean writing, sharp plot, and a strong message. While I loved the characters in this book (I mean, obviously not Mike), the message of this book resonated with me more than Maya and Junie.
representation: main character with OCD and anxiety (mental illness)
content warnings: bulimia, self-harm, relationship violence, emotional manipulation, panic attack **some scenes may be triggering**
read this if you: want to learn more about relationship violence or get better insight into the thoughts of someone with bulimia/who self-harms **bearing in mind this is not own-voices**
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!