Book Reviews contemporary

Rules for Being a Girl – Book Review


Title: Rules for Being a Girl

Author: Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

Pages: 304

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

It starts before you can even remember: You learn the rules for being a girl. . . .

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules.

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Take two of my favorite authors, team them up for a novel together and what do you get? An amazing, thought provoking, rage inducing book, that’s what! Add the cherry on top that our main character is a student journalist, and they’ve created the perfect novel for me. It’s like they’ve written a cooler version of me from high school.

Rules for Being a Girl touches on all of the things that bothered me about the school system when I was in high school. Sexist dress codes, incompetent school officials, double standards, etc. Marin is a bright young girl, with dreams of going to Brown University upon graduation.

Things get challenging for Marin when her favorite teacher, the one most of the female students have a crush on, Bex, kisses Marin. Granted, some sketchy things happened leading up to this, i.e. Marin lets Bex drive her home, Marin hangs out with Bex at a coffee shop, but all of that aside, Marin is clearly not okay with what happened. Bex lets it go, but starts being extremely antagonistic towards Marin, causing a whole lot of drama at school.

The rage Marin feels at being treated this way causes her to see many things in a new light, including how all of the school’s reading list is written by men. She starts a feminist book club, and is surprised by some of the people who join—and by those who don’t.

Rules for Being a Girl is absolutely one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Marin goes through many challenges and has a lot of ups and downs, which she doesn’t always handle gracefully. Her emotions and actions feel authentic, and she will not sit by while people tell her how a girl should behave. I give it 5/5 stars.

Book Reviews contemporary romance ya fiction

Top Ten – Book Review

Title: Top Ten

Author: Katie Cotugno

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Published: October 3, 2017


Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

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I feel like I can relate to Gabby a lot, which is probably why I liked this book so much. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in which people don’t like Top Ten because they can’t relate to the character, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Gabby has some pretty bad anxiety, and while my anxiety is nowhere near hers, I could still sympathize with a lot of what she feels, because I feel the same things to a lesser extent. I think that a lot of times, people don’t understand how tough it is to have feelings like this, and to see a character with such severe anxiety really helped me to feel like what I feel is more normal than I think it is. (I know anxiety is a huge deal, but it’s always hard to feel like you’re not alone in your symptoms.)

One of my absolute favorite things about Katie Cotugno’s writing is the fact that her books are never your “typical contemporary”. I always find that things never end the way you might expect or want them to in Katie’s novels. Sure, you might want things to end happy, with a neat little bow tied around everything, but that isn’t how life works, and it’s not how Katie’s books work either. And I LOVE it! Her characters are always flawed, and that makes them feel so much more real.

The format that this book was told in made it tough for me to grasp where in the timeline I was at times. It is told in an episodic structure, with each chapter being a different memory/story between Ryan and Gabby, and even though they were in chronological order, I was constantly confused about “has this already happened yet?!” I also think this confusion was slightly due to the fact I read this as an ebook, so it was much more challenging to be able to flip back to the beginning of a chapter and see when in the timeline that particular story was taking place.

I am a Katie Cotugno fan for life, and this book is no exception. I give it 4.25/5 stars.


*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*