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Solve For MPDG

Gretchen McNeil’s latest book wants to do pirouettes with you in the hallway and, if you’re a guy, encourage you to find your passion.

Solve For MPDG

BOOK REPORT for I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil

Cover Story: Brown Bag It
BFF Charm: Torn
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: The Limit Does Not Exist
Bonus Factor: Math
Relationship Status: Come As You Are

Cover Story: Brown Bag It

That title is just all up in your face. For the entire duration that this book was out and around my home, my husband was constantly repeating the title in a most ridiculous voice. So, suffice it to say, no one is going to take you seriously if they spot you reading this. The Tweety Bird ice cream Bea is eating on the cover does show up in the book, so I give the cover designers a few props for that small bit of accuracy.

The Deal:

Beatrice’s best friends, Spencer and Gabe, are perfect the way they are; she just wishes that everyone at their high school could see that too. When their senior year starts with more of the same—i.e., Gabe being picked on by the popular jocks in the lunch room, Bea being called “Math Girl” for the zillionth time in a row, Spencer basically not existing to anyone but his friends—Bea decides to use her mathematical skills to create The Formula: a sure-fire way to make them popular.

Gabe leans zoopa (AKA his new catchphrase way of saying "super") into the “Sassy Gay Friend” role, Spencer becomes a MLDA (Mysterious Loner Dude Artist), and Bea? She’s content to watch her friends shine and use the results as part of her MIT scholarship essay. But then the ultimate manic pixie dream girl Toile Jeffries shows up, steals Bea’s boyfriend, Jesse, and charm the pants off the popular kids in just two days. So Bea finds herself applying The Formula to herself in order to out-MPDG Toile to win Jesse back. Now introducing...Trixie!

BFF Charm: Torn

Oh, Bea. You’re brilliant with math, a bit of a smart-aleck, and your heart is in the right place. But you’ve got a lot of things to learn outside of the classroom. Your parents’ divorce and their subsequent childish antics haven’t given you any positive role models for what healthy relationships look like, but with your determinatoin, I think you’ll get there. And I see you trying to be a good friend, I do, but you get caught up in the details and forget to ask the important questions; namely, do your friends actually want your help? I think with a little more of the confidence you’ll gain after a few years in college (plus a crash course on good ‘80s music, because, WHAT, how do you not know "Jessie's Girl"?), we could be great besties.

And I say this with all my love: please ditch the wheelie backpack. No one under the age of 50 or without chronic back issues should be toting one of those around.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Can I “Roger Murtagh” the Swoonworthy Scale? Because I was SO over this shizz. Bea is understandably upset and shocked when Jesse drops her like a hot potato as soon as he spots Toile’s adorably quirky outfits, but to actually want a wishy-washy numbskull like him back? Bea, babycakes, you are better than that. There’s someone else who thinks so, too, but it takes everyone involved far too long to have an open conversation and vocalize their feelings. Just kiss already!

Talky Talk: The Limit Does Not Exist

McNeil’s writing is straight-forward, without too many frills or flights of fancy. Bea is a practical girl, so this was fitting. I’m quite tired of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and of everyone trying to figure out which TV/movie/book character is or isn’t one, so I was curious to see this author’s take on it. Beatrice boils down the essence of what she believes a MPDG is, and uses that to transform herself from someone who carefully curates her lunchroom spot (the hidden booth over in the corner) to someone who would willingly go out campaigning for a school election. I liked that the results of her desperate experiment took her to a more positive place then I anticipated, and that the story wasn’t completely about Bea acquiring the attributes of a MPDG and turning into someone totally reprehensible. She had her moments, but they were more a result of her natural, forceful personality than anything else.

Bonus Factor: Math

I work with college students, and I think the majority of them would rather have live spiders crawling all over them than face a College Algebra class. But math gets such a bad rap! I enjoyed algebra when I went to school (though nowhere near as much as Beatrice), if only because I love when there is a clear cut answer to a question (it speaks to my organizer’s soul: everything has its place). Find the right formula, and you WILL get the correct solution. Bea sums up that feeling when you find the right answer best:

Something was percolating inside of me, that familiar flutter of excitement I got whenever I was on the brink of a mathematical breakthrough. There was always a moment when I shifted my perspective, and in an instant, all the elements would come together with a beautiful simplicity that made me feel like a moron for not having seen it before.

Beatrice’s math skills were definitely over my head, but I liked the inclusion of the handwritten formulas here and there.

Casting Call:

Nicole Gale Anderson as Beatrice

Nicole Gale Anderson is half-Filipino, just like Bea. She can also rock short hair, as seen above, and I could see her pulling double-duty as the slightly geeky, no-nonsense "Math Girl" and the always-grinning Trixie.

Lea Salonga as Beatrice’s Mom

Bea’s mom is on the prowl for husband number two after Bea’s father left her for his secretary. She’s where Bea gets her Filipino side, and when I saw Lea Salonga, I knew she could fit the role of a hot mama (I also had to do some math to see if her being born in 1971 would make her old enough to have an 18-year-old daughter, and it sort of surprised me that she easily could have. Clearly math isn’t my strong suit).

Chris Noth as Beatrice’s Dad

I recently started watching The Good Wife, and when we learn that Bea’s father is a lawyer who’s a serial cheater, well, Chris's character (and by extension, him) popped into mind.

Darren Criss as Spencer

Spencer’s attitude drove me nuts at times, with his crappy treatment of Bea when he didn’t like her decisions, but he is supposed to be surprisingly adorable after his art-filled summer in Europe. Darren can also pull double-duty here.

Cameron Boyce as Gabe

In order to earn himself a journalist career and avoid getting his ass beat for getting the athletic coach fired last year, Gabe goes “undercover” as a flamboyant gay man, friend to all straight girls needing a gay BFF, replete with bowties and suspenders. Cameron would look zoopa cute in those outfits.

Darcy Rose Byrnes as Toile

Our resident manic pixie dream girl will need to find herself a crazy hat and sparkly tights before she could really get into the role.

Relationship Status: Come As You Are

You don’t need to pretend to be something you’re not with me, Book. If you need a lunchtime partner or help with your English homework (because, let’s face it, you’d be the one tutoring me in geometry), I’m up to lend a helping hand.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Balzer + Bray. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.