Sunday, December 9, 2012

Good Girls by Laura Ruby

Title: Good Girls
Author: Laura Ruby
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 29, 2008
Pages: 304 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Good Girls Some people would say this is the story of a photograph. How it was taken, and what happened to me after the whole world saw it.

And it is.

But it's also the story of a lot of other things. A boy so beautiful he's like a punch to the throat. Best friends--the outrageous old ones and the out-of-the-blue new. It's about fishnets and eyebrow rings and a chick named Hamlet. Kick lines at lumberyards and conga lines at the prom. Crying in cars and gazing at stars. Mistakes, misunderstandings, and misconceptions. Good girls, bad boys, and everyone in between.

This is a story about love.

So look at the picture all you want.

I am so much more than what you see.


This book has been languishing in my box of unread books for months, mostly because I wasn't sure it would be good. A premise such as this one has a lot of room to go right and even more room to go wrong. Every time I read it, the jacket copy from my cover sounds like a quote straight from Audrey's mouth and it makes my heart hurt, it's that awesome. Happily, almost everything went right with this novel. Yay for good, feminist-minded books!

Audrey is a likable girl who reminds me somewhat of myself when it comes to how much of a perfectionist she is concerning her grades. Everything about her, from the mistakes she makes to her voice, feel so real that it's hard not to be affected at some point. She and her friends are always a blast to read about, especially once Pam and Cindy join the party. Audrey's relationship with Luke seems to be built more on all the makeouts they had and their sexual chemistry than their personalities, but I'm willing to overlook it because it works somehow.

There's something sad about Good Girls, though: this book first went into print in 2006 in hardcover and the problems discussed in it still run rampant with little to no improvement in six long years. Double standards still rule, girls' lives are still ruined by photographs that never should have been taken, and some girls aren't even able to go on with life after the kind of scandal Audrey lived through. All that appears to have changed is that this sort of thing and its distant cousin sexting are a bigger deal.

Other novels can be too anvilicious or over-the-top while trying to cover the same subjects, but Good Girls does it with subtlety and the raw power of realism. The visit to the doctor and all his questions about her sexual activity feel so lifelike that it actually hurts; the blaming and/or jeering reactions of the students, parents, and even faculty members are unfortunately identical to what might happen in real life. As if all girls has so little control that if she's smart, she's suddenly going to see her grades plummet just because she had sex a few times! Ugh, people.

The only reason this isn't a five-star novel is an issue with the portrayal of a girl named Cherry, who the best friend's boyfriend cheated on her with. Despite the denouncement of slut-shaming, Cherry is shamed over and over again and usually described by how close her boobs are to popping out of her clothes. The perceptions of other characters shamed change, but nothing changes when it comes to Cherry. We never know if she ever realized she was the other woman in Ash and Jimmy's relationship, but considering Cherry and Jimmy are still together, she doesn't seem to mind. That makes her a pretty terrible person, but it doesn't make her a slut.

Laura Ruby has a few other novels published, but she needs more. More! One in particular called Bad Apple seems like a very good idea and I'll try to get my hands on it as soon as possible. Until then, I will beat people with this book until they read it. That's perfectly normal, right?

4.5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Everlasting by Angie Frazier