Based on the cover art alone, Not That Kind of Girl isn’t typical of the type of book I usually read. But as the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.
If I’d passed this book because of the cover, I might have missed an intriguing character study and a young adult novel that examines some fairly interesting questions.
Natalie is a very driven young woman. She’s on top of her class, wants to be student body president and active in making sure that women aren’t judged only for their external appearance or defined simply by their sexuality. Natalie believes her best friend agrees with her on this and believes she’s found a disciple when she crosses path with a young freshman she used to babysit. Imagine Natalie’s horror when she finds her former charge not only allowing herself to be seen as a sexual object by some of the school jocks but also embracing that role and the power that comes with it.
In the midst of all this, Natalie finds herself increasingly attracted to one of the jocks, who she assumes can’t be more than meets the eye, despite all evidence to the contrary. And the fact that she can’t stop meeting him for late night make-out sessions at a secluded spot in the woods owned by his parents.
As the novel progresses, the question of how far is too far comes up time and again–and not just in whether or not the young adults here should or are engaging in sexual relationships. Through Natalie, Siobhan Vivian also examines how you can go too far into the other extreme and end up losing friends and alienating others. At times, Natalie is a wet blanket to those around her, but she always sees herself as having great reasons why she should be. Even though the novel is told from a first-person perspective and we ultimately feel sympathy for Natalie, it’s also easy to see how she alienates those around her and can come off as a bit of a snob. (Or even that word that rhymes with witch).
Wisely, Vivian allows readers to come to their own conclusions about Natalie, her friends and her actions. It’s one of those rare young adult books that takes the standard formula (ackward teenager finds love, redemption) and actually stands it on its ear and tries to say something different, interesting and ultimately thought-provoking.
So don’t let the cover fool you. This is a gem of a book.