Title: More Than One Way To Be A Girl
Author: Dyan Sheldon
Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: July 6th, 2017
From the writer of Confessions of A Teenage Drama Queen and My Worst Best Friend comes this hugely entertaining teen read, all about what it really means to be a girl. ZiZi likes to think of herself as a girly girl: her wardrobe is almost exclusively pink, her daily makeup routine can take upwards of an hour and she loves a bit of a flirt. Her best friend Loretta is very different: all of her clothes are black, she doesn’t wear any makeup whatsoever and she doesn’t like the way ZiZi dumbs herself down for boys – or her old-fashioned ideas about “a woman’s place”. One day, they decide to make a bet. Can ZiZi stand looking like Loretta for longer than Loretta can bear dressing like ZiZi? As their summer unfolds – often hilariously – the pair are surprised to find they have a lot to learn from each other.
I hadn’t read a Dyan Sheldon book before but the premise of this one really intrigued me. The idea of two different types of girls, with two different opinions on what it’s like being a girl swapping places and seeing life from each other’s points of view, was really interesting to me, and I eager to see it executed well. I can’t say I was disappointed.
It’s a difficult line to tread. Society gives us a specific understanding of what a girl should be and even when you’re aware of these stereotypes, you still find yourself showing preference. I was impressed that it never felt like the two characters were being pitted against one enough.
The book is dual perspective, following girly-girl ZiZi and tomboy Loretta. They’re both very stubborn, both so certain that their views of the world and of their gender are correct and it’s in a moment of stubborn argument that the bet is struck. Zizi must wash off her makeup and take off her heels whilst Loretta has to throw out her jeans in favour of pink dresses. In doing this, both have their eyes opened to how much how you look actually affects how people treat you.
ZiZi suddenly finds work harder, with her grump sexist boss turning negative towards her as soon as she doesn’t appear the way he wishes.
Loretta has parents who are suddenly gushy and people are work treating her like she’s made of glass.
Sheldon handles these two different personalities very well. Each POV sounds different, feels different to read, and their development as they grow and accept the other’s position is wonderfully handled. You can see the moments where opinions change and truths are realised, which means the character arcs of both Loretta and ZiZi are obvious to see and easy to experience.
There is romance in this story – both girls have their crushes that are dealt with throughout the book – and while there were times when I wished the romance was pushed a little to the side, to have both girls worry less about their crush and more about themselves, it didn’t actually take anything away from the overall point of the book and the girls themselves. Their friendship is still very much the focus and it’s such a good thing to have positive female relationships for young readers to engage with.
More Than One Way To Be A Girl is a fantastic book about young girls growing as people and understanding how the world treats their gender. Their friendship and their development are very much the point of the book, creating this wonderful positive reading experience.
Although this book is aimed towards younger readers, I definitely think this is something that should be enjoyed by all ages, because acceptance of others is always something that we can work on as a society.