Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Tags: YA, feminism, student council


Natalie is the girl who knows what she wants: academic success, student council leadership, and avoidance of the male miscreants that run amok at her school and destroy girls’ lives with one raucous laugh and joke. Her one friend was at the receiving end of one of these boys’ cruelties in freshman year, and now, as seniors, Natalie has almost made it out home-free.

Until the entrance of two very different people into her life throws her into disarray. Spencer, her former babysitting charge, is now a one-woman force, unafraid to play up her sexuality and toy with the boys, much to Natalie’s chagrin. And Connor Hughes, quarterback and supposedly the biggest jerk of them all, surprises her with a side of him that she’s never known…and his interest in her.

Can Natalie deal with changing up her entire philosophy for success and feminism?


NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, Siobhan Vivian’s third novel, succeeds where few other contemporary YAs do: it features a smart, determined, but not always nice or right female protagonist and a strong message of the different definitions of what female empowerment entails.

Natalie is not a straightforwardly sympathetic protagonist. She’s smart and has obviously accomplished much, yes, and her narration is delightful for the “over-read” YA reader: anguished and angsty, determined and stubborn, without being overly dramatic and annoying. However, we get the sense early on that, despite the seeming solidness of her feminist creed, she could stand to learn a lesson or two. Too often I feel like YA protagonists are always made out to either be ethically perfect in dealing with external problems, or else have an identity utterly wrapped up in a love interest. Thus, Natalie is a breath of fresh air—even if she may snap at you, and even slap you, for daring to objectify her as refreshing.

There are a gratifying number of strong females in this novel—even if not all of them are “strong” in the best ways—but Spencer is probably the most admirable character of them all. She is the type of girl Natalie fears, though for all the wrong reasons. Spencer is confident, strong-willed, feminine, and, to Natalie’s horror, not afraid to play up her feminine appeal to get her way. Spencer and Natalie come from different schools of feminism, and while there is no clear answer as to which of them is more correct—Spencer gets hurt more, but she also lives—they are excellent examples of the different manifestations of feminism…with a hearty dose of entertainment in their shenanigans and interactions, too.

NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL focuses on the feminism aspect, on what it could mean for a female to be empowered, but it’s hardly preachy, and not without a crackling romance as well (although Natalie’s interactions with Connor was something I wish had been more fleshed out). Siobhan Vivian is a strong writer with a talent for character subtleties. This is my first book of hers, but it will certainly not be my last. Don’t overlook this strong gem of a contemporary YA read!

Similar Authors
Kody Keplinger
Natalie Standiford

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Sooooo generic. Would have avoided if not for the good things I heard about this book. I do like the pink accents though.

Scholastic Push / Sept. 1, 2010 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $17.99

Review copy bought.


  1. I definitely agree this is one of those gems who should have received more attention! It was such a great novel with strong, female characters you could look up to and I loved how the romance was believable too! None of this "I'll love you forever and ever", but something more realistic for a girl her age. :)

  2. You're right that too often YA heroines are written so though it sounds like Natalie would bug me personality-wise, it's great that she's different!

  3. I liked this book quite well, and have been meaning to post a review of my own! I like your point that a lot of main characters are made out to be ethically "perfect," and that is definitely part of what made this book good. Natalie is a more nuanced and real character: she is someone who (like everyone else on the planet) is still learning. I also like the fact that it contrasts different views of female empowerment. Instead of setting the story up as "feminist" vs. "nonfeminist" it opens a conversation about the complexities and differences *within* different types of feminisms, which is a rarely-heard discussion outside of Women's Studies classes and feminist circles. I was kind of surprised by the teacher that became Natalie's mentor/sponsor because she didn't seem to make room for that complexity in her understanding of Natalie's identity as a feminist.

  4. Great review :)

    I've have also awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award.

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  5. I'm glad to hear this one wasn't preachy. I liked the sound of it, but that was something I was thinking in the back of my head. I'm glad you seemed to like this one; I think I'll hold off on it for a little bit.

  6. I thought this was a fantastic book. Most particularly for the way the empowerment issue was handled. Even the freshman encouraging a promiscuous image rang true to life. She was pretty harmless and approached her goal in a wholly inappropriate way but I do think she was genuine. Something else I really liked was that there wasn't a whole lot of girls backstabbing each other and being catty. So great.


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