Summer reading update: Blueprints for Building Better Girls

My attempts to work my way through my summer reading list aren’t going so well.

On Friday I got an email from the library regarding the hold I’d placed on their lone copy of Marion Meade’s Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, saying they were unable to locate it. They helpfully informed me that I could request they purchase a new copy to replace this missing one, but I’m not sure how long the library takes to process requests for new books, so it looks like this one’s going to have to be crossed off my list, too.

Two down, ten still to go, and June is practically over already!

On the plus side, I did manage to score a copy of Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls, which I ripped through this weekend. Great, dark book inspired by a (real? imaginary?) 1960s etiquette book of the same name, with plenty of damaged and dangerous young ladies struggling to figure out what it means to be a woman or girl these days. The last line in the final story (WARNING! SPOILER!) is brilliant: “Don’t be a fool, there is no such thing as just a girl.”

Take that, Gwen Stefani.

As a woman who, in her girlhood, often tread that fine line between intention and ignorance, I completely understood this narrator’s sentiment. She has been trying to share the story of her youthful romantic escapades with her son, in an effort to make him see that his girlfriend is not as innocent and perfect as he seems to believe. The son is attempting to console her by saying that the girl in her story couldn’t have been responsible for something as sinister as her lover’s death, trying to side with her as an innocent victim despite his previous judgements of “slut” and “bitch,” but his mother knows the truth: no one is innocent. She is not innocent.

Having seen her younger self in action in the opening story, we readers already know she’s not innocent or perfect. Intriguing, yes. Mysterious, sure. Hard-done-by, perhaps. Vindictive? Absolutely. Innocent? Never.

I loved that these girls felt real, not pretty little stereotypes or images of what one might like them to be. They did things you didn’t always expect. They were mean to one another, cruel to the men that trailed after them, awful even to themselves. Some of them are, it’s true, too old to be called “girls,” but that’s all part of the game, isn’t it? We’re all just girls to someone, usually some male someone looking to diminish us. So why not embrace the label?

We may be girls, but we’re not good girls. We are very bad girls indeed.

So capsule review: two thumbs way up, and now I’ve got to get my hands on Schappell’s first book, Use Me. Oh, and for a great interview with Elissa regarding this book, check out The Rumpus.

P.S. If you’re casting about for some summer reading of your own, don’t forget to check out my Summer BOGO Sale, which ends June 30. Buy any of my ebook titles and get a second one free!

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