High school senior and student council president Natalie Sterling believes she knows best about more or less everything (it’s nearly impossible not to picture her as Tracy Flick in Election). Over the past few years, Natalie and her best friend, Autumn, have bonded over a shared disgust of the male species, but even though Autumn’s stance shows signs of weakening, when Natalie starts hooking up with football player Connor, she still thinks she has to keep it a secret from Autumn and everyone else. Through Natalie and Spencer, a freshman girl Natalie used to babysit, Vivian (Same Difference) asks whether sex and sexiness empower girls; Natalie’s feelings about Spencer’s oversexed demeanor and provocative attire flip-flop between seeing her as a victim-in-the-making or as a liberated feminist. Natalie herself is definitely “not that kind of girl”; rather she’s the kind who constructs her own Amelia Earhart costume for Halloween and would rather restock ice in the coolers than dance at a party. Readers may not identify with Natalie’s emotionally remote and arrogant nature, but she is both empathetic and genuine, and her transformation is believable. Ages 14�up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
A KIRKUS Best Book of the Year
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
"High school has never felt more authentic. . . . Vivian challenges assumptions and sends a positive message about acceptance, forgiveness, and love."
"The dialogue and emotional honesty are pitch-perfect. . . . Readers will cheer."
-- SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"A joy to read . . . Full of wry observations, details that delight the senses and perceptions about things that matter."
-- PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
Children's Literature - Donna Ashcraft
Natalie Sterling is a most serious student at Ross Academy, who wants to spend her senior year as Student Council President and aims for exemplary SAT scores to get offers to the best colleges in the country. She has no time for high school social life, except for with her best friend Autumn, whose high school fate had taken an ill turn with a dishonest boy when she was a freshman. Since then, she sticks close to Natalie, both girls turning to the serious side of study and academic achievement. However, senior year has Autumn trying new avenues of social interaction, leaving Natalie, ever serious, alone. Her life turns complicated when she gets involved with a boy-crazy freshman girl who accepts Natalie's invitation to get involved in Student Council, but turns it upside down with her antics. Eventually the football player Connor Hughes shows an interest in Natalie, and their romance turns serious and involved. Natalie learns a great deal about friendship and commitment during her last year of high school, and becomes a more balanced and insightful girl, ready to face the world on its terms, and not just hers. This is a compelling read, honest and involved. Adolescent girls will easily identify with the characters and their complicated situations. Reviewer: Donna Ashcraft
VOYA - Hilary Crew
Natalie, accomplished and ambitious, only just wins the vote to be student council president against Mike Domski, whose offensive posters confirm his reputation as a sexual predator. Natalie's presidency is not going as smoothly as she had hoped, as fourteen-year-old Spencer, a freshman who Natalie once babysat, is a forceful presence on the student council and, moreover, causes disruptions by openly flaunting her sexuality. In addition, Natalie becomes involved with Connor, a handsome football player, and uncharacteristically finds herself neglecting her duties and lying to her parents when she spends the night with him. In this thoughtful novel, Vivian presents teens negotiating with issues of sexuality and power. As a result of Spencer's provocative behavior at a pep rally, Natalie organizes a sleepover seminar to educate girls on how to avoid being sexually objectified by emphasizing their accomplishments. Natalie's traditional feminist views, however, are challenged by Spencer, who advocates that women should appreciate their bodies and use their sexuality for empowerment. Spencer draws attention to double standards that punish girls, not boys, for displaying their sexuality. But there are lessons to be learned for both girls: Natalie realizes that she has hurt her best friend, Autumn, by treating her as a pathetic victim in a past sexual incident, while Spencer learns that there are consequences to her exercise of power over Mike Domski. The nuanced delineation of Natalie's conflicted emotions and her descriptions of her intricate relationship with a tender and loving Connor add complexity to this appealing novel. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Despite its chic-lit packaging, bubbly style, and sophomoric jokes, this is a smart feminist novel. The story sheds light on some unfinished business of the women's movement: where sex is concerned, girls are still either "good" or "bad," while boys are allowed more nuance. Outraged by these double standards, Natalie, president of the student council, organizes a Girl Summit, an "empowerment symposium" for female students. As she flounders in leadership, she wonders: Can I ask for help? From a cute boy, Connor? The quintessential "good girl," Natalie is more complex than she appears. Indeed, all of Vivian's characters are recognizable types and human at the same time. The dialogue and emotional honesty are pitch-perfect. Natalie and Connor's love scenes are as steamy and fraught as anything in Judy Blume's Forever (Bradbury, 1975). The overall message of the novel is that sex is joyful and should be embraced—but it is ever complicated. In Natalie's effort to be an independent woman who refuses to be used by a man, she inadvertently uses Connor. Clearly, gender relations have a long way to go—especially in high school. This protagonist is the perfect representation of a conflicted 21st-century feminist teen. Readers will cheer for her epiphany at the end: "I just needed to be okay with all the kinds of girl I was."—Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College Queens, Long Island City, NY
Another powerful, involving exploration of teen girls' identities and relationships from the ever-improving Vivian (A Little Friendly Advice, 2008, Same Difference, 2009). Type-A super-achieving high-school senior Natalie Sterling has a foolproof plan: Win the Student Council presidency, ace the SATs, gain acceptance to her top-choice colleges and get out of Liberty River. Sure, she'll miss her best (OK, only) friend, Autumn, and yes, there's been no room for romance in her life to date, but Autumn's reputation-ruining freshman-year relationship taught Natalie that "trusting boys [is] just like drinking and driving"--not worth the risk. Enter Spencer, Natalie's former babysitting charge, all grown up and provocative as hell, and Connor, a cute football player with unexpected depth. Natalie finds her deeply held beliefs about feminism challenged, first by Spencer's half-baked assertions about female sexuality, then by Connor's wholehearted embrace of Natalie's strength and determination. Can teen girls own their sexuality and be taken seriously? It's rare to see second- and third-wave feminism square off in YA literature so successfully; don't miss this round. (Fiction. 14 & up)