photo via Thriftbooks under creative commons
What Kind of Girl is the type of book that has the ability to deeply affect its readers, even after reading the last page. Written in a format that really helps the reader step into the narrator’s shoes, the story is a powerful, poignant young adult novel by Alyssa Sheinmel. Aimed at a mature audience, the book explores and examines topics of substance abuse, anxiety, self harm, domestic violence, mental health, self image and sexuality.
What Kind of Girl is an engrossing story about two teenage girls as they navigate through their own worlds. The book begins when one of the girls goes to the school’s principal with a black eye. She comes forward and reveals that Mike Parker, her boyfriend and the “golden boy” of the school, had hit her, not only once, but on several occasions. Soon, the whole school knows, and students began to take sides. Some students think that Mike might not have been the abuser, while others rally for Mike’s expulsion. The girl’s best friend struggles to support the girl with problems of her own. This story really captures the expectations of society the girls in the novel face. It captures the harm that those expectations can do to us, not only from others’ actions, but our own too.
After reading What Kind of Girl, I can say that this is one of my favorite books of all time. Although the book is a slow paced, the author’s writing is compelling. It has a strong narrative voice with the ability of immersing me in situations. I like how the story was told from multiple points of views, and how in the first and second parts there were no names, only titles such as The Girlfriend, The Burn-Out, The Anxious Girl, and more, although it was confusing at times. This worked out well when the story came together.
It was difficult and emotional to read. In some scenes, I had to close the book for a couple of seconds before beginning to read again. However, I believe the author intended to make the reader feel uncomfortable and uneasy at times to help them experience empathy for the characters. Hopefully it helped them experience empathy outside the book for real people experiencing these very real problems. I love the way the author addressed the important subjects that society likes to sweep under the rug. The ending of the story is more open, but I don’t mind. In fact, I feel that it suited the novel. To me, What Kind of Girl is a modern coming-of-age story. It’s about discovering and accepting yourself, and the support needed when those expectations become too much.
Overall, if you can handle the triggering topics this well-written book talks about, I would highly recommend reading it. What Kind of Girl is the perfect addition to any high school library or classroom. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars, it would definitely be around a 4.5. You can find this book on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.