Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Being Friends With Boys

Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Genres: "Young Adult" Fiction, Coming of Age, Romance (ish)
Page Count: 361
You'll Like This if You Like: Sarah Dessen
Twenty Words or Less: Much better than it has any right to be.

Oh dear, I have kind of mixed feelings about this book -- on the one hand, I'm already forgetting some of the more minor plot points; on the other, I really really liked it. I'm not even sure where to start, so let's just read the jacket together, shall we?

"Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free . . . until it isn't anymore.

"When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl . . . and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char . . . being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated."

Let's see . . .

  • This makes it sound like Abe is going to be much more of a major character. I mean, he IS a major character in that he's always there and he's a member of the band, but . . . we never even find out what instrument he plays. There's all sorts of stuff that goes on during the story, and we never find out how he's reacted to it. Charlotte never even wonders what he might be thinking about anything.
  • "Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives." Really? Did you remember to put on your Basic Reading Comprehension Skills glasses?
  • Charlotte and her stepsisters actually get along really well. It's strongly implied that there was a fair amount of tension when their parents got married and they all moved in together, but they're way beyond that by the time the story starts.
  • That second paragraph makes it sound like romantic complications drive most of the plot, and this is simply not the case. Yes, there are quite a few romantic complications, but they're not, you know, Why This Story is Being Told.
What else, what else? I thought about dividing this review into Things I Liked and Things I Didn't Like, but there were only one or two things I didn't like enough to actually mention them, so that seems silly. Hmm.

1. First off, I want to mention how utterly believable this story was. There were quite a few moments when I was reading it that made me say to myself, in the back of my head, "You know, this goes beyond believable storytelling. I wouldn't be surprised if Charlotte and her friends actually existed. No, that's silly. But I wouldn't be surprised if the author wrote the story after rereading some of her own journals from high school, you know?"

2. The word "fuck" is used once in the whole entire book. Not that I have any problem with swearing, of course -- I fucking love it -- but, I don't know, I guess I've been watching so much Weeds lately that it was refreshing to not have every other scene be like a contest to see who can drop the most f-bombs. Heh.

3. Oh my goodness, JILLY. She's Charlotte's older sister, who's just gone away to college, and how much did I love her? So much. Oh my God. Her "on-page" appearance is exceptionally brief (she visits for Thanksgiving), but she gives Charlotte two brilliant pieces of advice: "You need to do what makes you happiest. Don't worry about where it's going right now." And, "You're doing so great. Just listen to yourself, and you'll be fine."

4. There are a few supporting characters who are eventually revealed to be gay, and I really liked the way that was handled. None of them got a Coming Out Scene (TM), the story never felt the need to stop and say "You're gay and that's different, but it's okay," it was just . . . normal. Not an issue. Everyone was completely indifferent (well, maybe there was some disappointment in the "all the good ones are gay" sense).

5. Charlotte's friends frequently use the nickname "Spider" for her. This was never explained, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to get it.

6. So, basically the point of this story is that it's often difficult for straight girls and straight guys who aren't attracted to each other to be friends -- it shouldn't be, but it is. And again, I found the whole thing to be completely believable.

7. The one thing that really bugged me was the lack of backstory. I mean, it's there, but it's all very light. Which isn't a bad thing in and of itself -- some authors spend so much time on backstory that you just stop caring -- but I really felt like we could've used a bit more reflection on exactly how Sad Jackal first got together. Mostly because I spent the first sixty or so pages constantly getting Oliver and Trip mixed up in my head.

Alright, I guess that's about it.

Seriously, this was so much better than I expected.

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