A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
The Plot: Josie, Nicolette and Aviva are 3 different teenage girls who each fall for the same bad boy, TL. A book in verse.
The Good: The verse is the same sort that teenage girls write, so you really get into the heads and into the emotions of the three narrators.
This is frank in its treatment of teens, sex and sexuality. While its blunt, it's not graphic ... meaning I've read things that are more explicit in most mainstream romance novels. Meaning, the teens who would be reading this probably will have read those novels.
Josie is just starting high school and says, "I'm not stuck up. I'm confident." But it's easy to be confident and sure of yourself when you've never been in a situation that could cause doubt or could bring temptation. I've read studies that wonder why do girls change at 12, at 13, lose their confidence? I think because its easy to be strong when you've never been tested. Josie is tested. And luckily is made stronger by the experience rather than broken by it.
Nicolette is a junior who sees sex as "all about the power. Who's got it and who doesn't. If I say who and I say when and I say what then I have it. Simple as that." She's about to find out it isn't that simple.
Aviva is a senior, but since she's not in any one particular clique she's a bit out of the loop about the gossip. She's elated that TL knows her name. And finds out she also believes what she wants to believe.
Each girl struggles with the conflict between how TL makes her feel -- emotionally flattered and physically turned on -- and what her head is telling her. Because with each girl, there are signs that TL is indeed bad: a manipulator. A liar. A user. And each girl, for one reason or another, refuses to see the truth of the situation because of emotions and hormones. Hears the whisper, this isn't quite right, yet ignores it.
Is a bad boy good for a girl? Each girl is left a little older and wiser. Wiser about herself. And while I hate to talk about "messages" and prefer to let the story speak for itself, I hope that the teenagers reading this will be able to apply this to their own lives and recognize the bad boys before they get hurt.
TL is, no doubt, self-involved, a manipulator and liar. He's a user. OK here's a comment that's not about the book but about the boy: he's not unique. Why? Why do boys and men think it is acceptable to use people this way?
In the book, TL's protected by his status (jock, popular) and his friends, including girls. The book also shows how girl v girl competition over a guy allows a guy to be a player. And finally -- communication. The girls who are his victims are silent from fear or embarrassment, or ignored because they aren't the cool kids. Or, as is the case with Nicolette, suffer from "it won't happen to me"-itis. There's also very much the "blame the victim" attitude amongst TL's peers: that the girl should have known better. (Ah yes the wonderful, if you've been lied to or manipulated, its your fault for believing, rather than the fault of the one who lied. Great stuff, logic. Not.)
A final thing I like about this book is that there is no good boy. At first, I was a bit upset about that, thinking, there are good guys out there, it would be nice to have at least one show up. But when I reread ABBCBGFAG, I realized it would have been easy and expected to have at least one girl end up with a guy who is not "bad." Because the point of the book isn't the boy, its the girls.
On Tuesday, February 7th, Tanya Lee Stone will be the guest author at the YA Author's Cafe. It starts at 8:30 p.m. EST.
ALAN Article, Now and Forever: The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature by Tanya Lee Stone (pdf file).
Tanya Lee Stone's Boyfriend's List at E. Lockhart's blog.
Added Note: Is anyone else having problems with Blogger & Internet Explorer? And isn't it odd that Blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize the words blog or blogger?