Publication Date: 2011
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 710
Annotation: Sensible Natalie believes there is always a right choice, but her choices and beliefs are about to be challenged as senior year starts.
Plot Summary: Natalie Sterling represents every parents dream child. She’s always on the honor roll, participates in student council as president and has clear future goals. She’s strong, sensible and in control. Most of all, she prides herself on making the right choice – and that means not getting involved with boys because trusting them is as dangerous as drunk driving. However, her beliefs are challenged as Spencer, a girl she used to babysit, enters high school as a freshman. Natalie’s belief of feminism is to be as good as the boys and not demean oneself by hitting on boys and sleeping around. When Spencer comes into the picture with her overt sexuality and “sexual power” war cry, Natalie is determined to correct it and make Spencer see her way – until things happen and Natalie is suddenly questioning her beliefs and the choices she made.
Critical Evaluation: Not That Kind of Girl is a great exploration of gender representation still going on today, particularly the way girls and women are portrayed. Girls are still stuck between the “good”/”bad” girl dichotomies with conflicting messages and double standards reinforced by media, society and sometimes each other. Vivian explores this issue with complexity, but she never pushes her point. Additionally, Natalie is a fully fleshed out character and not just stock representation for pushing the story along. There were times when she was not entirely likable from her rush to judgment and her moral crusade. However, Natalie’s struggles of identity, questioning who she is and how people see her are easily relatable to many a teenager. Additionally, this is not a story where the boy changes her, but she comes to her own realizations and embrace it. A strong contemporary read for fans of Sarah Dessen or Melissa Walker.
Author Bio: Siobhan Vivian is the acclaimed author of Not That Kind of Girl, hailed by Kirkus Reviews as a “powerful, involving exploration of teen girls’ identities and relationships,” Same Difference, and A Little Friendly Advice. A Jersey girl by birth and a Brooklyn girl at heart, Siobhan currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA, and on the web at http://www.siobhanvivian.com. (via Ingram).
Tie to Curriculum Units: Gender Studies
Booktalking Ideas: Struggle of Identity, Strong Characters, High School Labels
Challenge Issues: Not This Kind of Girl is both a Kirkus Book of the Year and an ALA Best Books for Teens the year it came out. Additionally, it was a nominee of the Carolyn Field Award in 2011, an award for YA books issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and VOYA all give glowing reviews. All of the above are points I would bring up if this is challenged.