Time audiobook: 9 hours
Genre: young adult, lgbt
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
The narrator is really good, during the dramatic scenes especially. Personally I would’ve chosen the physical book because I thought the writing of the plot dragged on and 30% in I was already listening on 1.5x speed to get through it. But I can recommend the audiobook to anyone who prefers that.
Rating out of five: three
The concept and plot is really important and good, it’s about the main character Penn’s struggle about gender and having to respond to a lot of unwelcome questions and harassment about it. Among friends, classmates, teachers and parents who insists that she should act and look more like a girl. Penn is a butch lesbian and the parts where she’s figuring out her attraction to girls and going into her first relationship are so cute. It very well balanced.
My problem with the book is the writing. This book doesn’t need to be 9 hours or 400 pages long. So many details are included, in the style of me walking into a room and describing what I see, instead of focusing on a couple things that give characteristics and letting the picture paint itself for the reader. The book is marketed as young adult, but it feels like it’s for a younger audience. The main character feels younger than 16 as well, the age isn’t mentioned before much later in the book. The conflicts show themselves to be much darker than first thought, but that disconnect between how Penn talks about her challenges in the beginning and the end was really confusing. She goes from talking about conflicts more suited among 13 year olds, to serious harassment. I get that it’s young adult for the darker parts and family conflicts, but then I think the author should’ve made Penn and the friend-group feel more grown up. It still has a lot of good examples and talks about loyalty, friendship, gender and the struggles of not being accepted by family.
I’ve seen readers complain on the “girl mans up” theme and actually complain about how horrific people are acting and bullying each other. That’s the only wrong opinion you can have about this book, as the book brings up bad to horrifying examples of friendships and manipulation and how the characters try to keep each other down. The conversations around that are the excellent parts of this book!
What I felt reading this book: really felt for Penn even though she continued to make wrong choices (she’s got heart though) and anger at everyone who has to deal with this bullying and constant harassment if they don’t clearly fit into “acceptable” gender or sexuality. and how bad unaccepting families make everything.