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The Pankhursts Called. They Want Their BFF Charm Back.

Meghan reviews Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman, which has a premise that works much better as a Drew Barrymore or Channing Tatum movie.

The Pankhursts Called. They Want Their BFF Charm Back.

BOOK REPORT for Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman

Cover Story: Between Friends
BFF Charm: Nah
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Simple Simon
Bonus Factors: Oscar Wilde, Boarding School
Anti-Bonus Factor: Biological Determinism/Stereotypes
Relationship Status: Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

Cover Story: Between Friends

It's not a particularly embarrassing cover - no emo faces, celeb lookalikes, glitter or hot pink - but nothing about the cover says, "I am very busy and important," either. I wouldn't really care if anyone saw me reading this book, and it's actually kind of a cute cover, but I'm not gonna parade it about either. I do think it's the title more than anything that embarrasses me, honestly.

The Deal:

Natalie is the relationship advice columnist for her school paper, but she actually knows jack shit about boys and relationships, and her readers start to get restless. When one of her columns generates an avalanche of hate mail for its people-pleasing tone (people of the whiny female variety), Natalie decides she needs to find out what boys really want. Her Girl Friday routine is a big fail (surprise), so she does what any girl in her sitch would do -- she gets her bff's hacker kid cousin to enroll her at the local all-boys boarding school, chops off her hair and goes undercover for a week. She learns all kinds of Important Life Lessons (TM) beyond why boys say they'll call and never do, and falls for her sexy roommate. Oh, and she also helps her shy, sweet bff get over the loser user boy and her tough, bitchy bff realize nice guys are better than jerks who just want sex.

BFF Charm: Nah

Sorry, Natalie, I just don't care enough to give you a bff charm. You're too shallow, and I TOTES disagree with you on some major feminist issues. I don't dislike you at all, and if we had to sit by each other on the bus on a field trip I wouldn't want to stab my eyes out with my pencil, but I'm not going to invite you to my slumber party, either. I WILL recommend you go find that other literary Natalie, Natalie Sterling, and her girl Spencer from Not That Kind of Girl -- you need to get some grrl-power education before I can even think about taking you seriously as a bff.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

I might not have been all that into this book, but HELLO SWOON. I mean, you really can't go wrong with the classic "He thinks I'm a boy, so we can never get together" longing and angst. Make the love interest the roommate, and you have lots of sleepless nights. add some skinnydipping, WHAT WHAT! And you have a recipe for panty meltin'.

Talky Talk: Simple Simon

Y'all, there are no SAT words in this book. Even the literary allusions are explained, dependent clause style. The only thing that might be a bit troubling is the Spanish isn't translated (gracias a DIOS). Natalie's kinda snarky, but in a methinks-she-doth-protest-too-much way ("My mind backflips through these frenetic questions like a coked-up cheerleader.").

Bonus Factor: Oscar Wilde

So there's a joint school play between the boarding school and the public high school Natalie attends, and it's The Importance of Being Earnest. And I adore Oscar Wilde, and that play -- the Gladstone bag scene never fails to slay me -- so I love that it was thrown in. Shakespeare also gets a nod in the book, but it's Merchant of Venice, not Twelfth Night that's chosen to represent cross-dressing girls, and in a book that was all about the subtle, I'd applaud that choice. But in this book, where everything's as obvious as a boner at the swimming pool, it just bugged. I mean, why? why NOT go for the obvious choice?

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

Boarding School! With boys! All boys! Actually, it sounded kind of gross, and having lived in a co-ed dorm in college, I think it's probably fairly accurate and I gotta give Gehrman props for that. That said, I really didn't need the phrase "butt flossing" added to my repertoire of disgusting foul-mouthery. 1) It's not particularly foul mouthed and 2) it's just too gross to contemplate, but I couldn't STOP contemplating it. I mean, doesn't the towel CATCH? Or chafe, or something? How does it really work? GAH. And now I gift the phrase to you. Happy Monday!

Anti-Bonus Factor: Biological Determinism/Stereotypes

Erin, help me out here with your anthropology brain. I just made up that phrase, but I'm talking about the theory that women and men are BIOLOGICALLY different (I mean, duh, besides the obvious dirty bits) and BIOLOGY is why girls like pink and boys like blue, and girls love makeup and boys love sports. Duh! Girls squeak and squeal and giggle and OMG!! because of that extra X chromosome! And the only sports they're good at are dancing and Pilates! And boys -- even loser boys -- are good at basketball! And they're quiet and unemotional and hate shopping because they're BOYS, not because they're socialized to be that way. ANYWAY, it's one of my pet irritations, along with "Math class is tough!" Barbie, so it's definitely a dealbreaker that one of Natalie's Important Life Lessons (TM) is that we ALL have a little boy and little girl inside of us! And having to swagger and belch made her appreciate flipping her hair and walking on her long legs EVEN MORE! Gloria Steinem, WHERE ARE YOU?

Also, the gay drama teacher was SO OUTRAGEOUS! Because he was GAY! And although Emilio the hot roommate was HOT, he was also oh-so-sad because he came from East LA and was just a smart Latino boy trying to make good while his mom worked to support his four other siblings. Just ... stop.

Casting Call:

Lucy Hale as Natalie

I don't know how good she'd look with short hair, but she could be super "girly".

Relationship Status: Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

Actually, as Natalie and her friends complain, I probably WON'T call. I didn't have an awful time on our date, and you were kind of cute, but dang. You're not my style at all, and I know we will never get along. Our arguments won't be the chemistry-inflaming kind, they'll just be irritating. So sorry, luv, but I'm just not feeling it. I hope you find someone out there who can appreciate your shiny hair and love of lipgloss, but it ain't me.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Babe in Boyland will be released February 17.

Aaaand I have a copy to give away! What? Maybe you LIKE pink and glitter and flipping your hair. Or maybe you don't get your panties in a twist like I do over the biological argument and think this just sounds like a fun book version of Never Been Kissed! And I say, hooray for you! So leave a comment, fill in yr email in the email blank on the form, and cross yr fingers.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.