A Review: Girl Mans Up

28217802.jpgGirl Mans Up (audiobook)

Author: ME Girard
New York: HarperCollins, 2016; 384 p.
Audiobook narrator: Emma Galvin
9 hrs., 32 min. (Unabridged)

Min/Max Grade level: 9 – 12

VOYA codes: 5Q, 3P, S

William C. Morris YA Debut Award Nominee (2017)
Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult (2017)
OLA Best Bets: 2016
Rainbow Lists: 2017
YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2017

Pen (don’t call her Penelope) is a 16 year old coming to terms with many things in her world. Friendship, family, sexuality, and identity – to name a few. In the face of events in her life, she decides she needs to “man up” to get make the right decisions, stand up for herself, and survive. Pen is queer, but that is not the central theme, and for her, it’s just one part of what and who she is. Issues of loyalty, respect (including self respect), bullying, gender identity, pregnancy, and romantic love are all addressed.

It sounds like a lot of topics crammed into one book, but they are approached realistically, organically, and thoughtfully, and handle the issues, and decisions of teens in a way that is respectful and natural. As in real life, characters are flawed and learn as they go along – and make adjustments as they learn. The cover and title were interesting and appealing to me – and it was available in audiobook, which I’ve been using as a way to “read” more books while driving and during otherwise non-reading times.

This book, and the audiobook will appeal to all genders of high school students. This is not a “teen drama” book, as it is more realistic in pace and tone. The audiobook is very well done: characters are made real by award-winning narrator Emma Galvin’s vocal variations. Make sure it is in your library!

Top 5 quotes from Pen (HarperCollins blog):

  1. “I don’t feel wrong inside myself. I don’t feel like I’m someone I shouldn’t be. Only other people make me feel like there’s something wrong with me.”
  2. “People should just be allowed to look in the mirror and see all kinds of possibilities. Everyone should be able to feel nice when they look in the mirror. They should at least be able to see themselves reflected in there, even if they all look weird.”
  3. “Am I queer because I like girls, or because I look the way I do? Maybe I don’t know enough words.”
  4. “I want to be a boyfriend who is a girl. I have no idea how to explain that stuff to anyone, let alone a girl I like. I just wish it was already all understood.”
  5. “Everyone wants something different from me. It’s like one second, I should be a better dude. I should stop being such a girly douche, and I should just man up. Then, it’s the opposite: I’m too much of a guy, and it’s not right. I should be a girl, because that’s what I’m supposed to be.”

Appeal Factors:
Character: Authentic, awkward, believable, complex, diverse, flawed, likable
Storyline: Character-driven
Tone: Emotional, moving, thought-provoking
Writing Style: Dialog driven, thoughtful
Audio Characteristics: Approachable, character accents, engrossing

Read or Listen-alikes (recommended by NovelistPlus and Goodreads)
Common appeal factors – lesbian teenagers, realistic fiction:
Geography Club
Geography Club (2009) by Brent Hartinger. HarperCollins.
Annie on My Mind (2008) by Nancy Garden. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
The Upside of Unrequited (2017) by Becky Albertalli. HarperCollins.
Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen (2006) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.













Girard, M. (2016). Girl Mans Up. New York: HarperCollins Books.

HarperCollinsCanada HCCFrenzy (2016, September 12). Retrieved from http://hccfrenzy.tumblr.com/post/150312369844/m-e-girards-new-ya-novel-girl-mans-up-had-us-at

Horning, K. (2010). From cover to cover : Evaluating and reviewing children’s books (Rev. ed.). New York: Collins.

School Library Journal Guidelines and Application for Reviewers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/about-us/guidelines-and-application-for-reviewers/


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