I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Being a girl can be really neat and fun! But it’s not always perfect, because us girls have to put up with a lot, between periods, beauty expectations, and ultimately living in a man’s world. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to go through it alone!
This was honestly such a cute read. Being a Girl is a comprehensive guide for any girl in their teens--and even older!--that covers a wide range of topics, from beauty to peer pressure to dating and more. Hayley Long's voice is full of humor and all the girl-supporting vibes as she guides the reader through all of these different aspects of girlhood, while Gemma Correll provides charming and quirky illustrations. But there’s also an inner feminist strength in this book as Hayley frequently comments on how society is so often to blame for the pressures and expectations placed on us...and also reminds us that we don’t have to put up with it if we really don’t want to! (*fist pump* Yeah!) She also encourages her readers to find their inner lioness to stand up and be a good example for women — that is, being a good person, showing confidence, and being above cattiness and being mean to other women.
As a feminist myself, I really appreciated this and just how much this book is aimed toward providing helpful tips and information, and supporting young women. There's even a section at the beginning of the book titled “Herstory" that goes into more detail on women’s history and the not-so-great realities of living in a man’s world: AKA: the patriarchy.
Along with this, there are sections dedicated to gender identity—including what it means to be transgender—topics on periods and birth control, what a healthy relationship looks like, and more. The author takes the time to explain each of these different topics in an approachable, easy-to-understand way, and there's so much useful information that I know I would have truly appreciated, had I read this book when I was a teenager. Plus, I cannot stress enough how cute the illustrations are throughout.
Overall I found this such a fun read and I really appreciate that there's a graphic novel completely dedicated to girls! The only complaint I had with this book is that a lot of the time it felt very much like a typical teen magazine/self-help guide to puberty. (That’s what I get for being overly excited and not reading the full description, I guess!) I was hoping this would be about celebrating girlhood overall, filled with lots of female empowerment and positivity — not that it doesn’t still include some of that! Still, it wasn’t even just that this book was heavy on the girly-girl and puberty aspect. There were moments where I felt it was a bit too squeaky clean and lecture-y. It started on the talk about peer pressure when the author started laying on the anti-drugs and alcohol talk a little too thick, listing a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t smoke and how anyone who smokes is insane and how drinking until you puke isn’t cool. I don’t personally drink or smoke either, but this still made me feel like I was back in my 7th grade health class. It’s totally fine to try to dissuade teens from drinking and smoking as much as you can, to an extent, but it should also be said that that’s sometimes just a part of peoples’ lifestyle. Is it healthy or glamorous? No. But it is what it is, and it definitely does not make one the better person by putting down others who like to have fun and go out drinking. That’s the opposite of supporting women! With this, there are other times when the author passes judgement, like saying girls shouldn't wear too-large clothing or shave their arms or have hickeys if they want to stay classy. This definitely turned me off a bit, and at times it felt too much like the author was lecturing the reader on how a girl is supposed to dress and come across. Not to mention this veers dangerously into the territory of "Don't be like those other girls who___" and seems counterproductive to what the book should be about...which is celebrating differences and uniqueness among girls!
For the most part, Being a Girl is a fun, lighthearted read, filled with helpful information and advice, and complemented with adorable illustrations and flow charts to help its readers navigate the waters of being a girl. And maybe with the few concerns I've mentioned I'm just overly sensitive. Maybe I'm being too much of a feminist and this book is only meant to be a gentle beginner's guide for those just entering girlhood. Still, I think it's important to be aware of these criticisms and to not take necessarily everything in this book to heart. Because while the author makes disclaimers like, 'Of course, you can technically do what you want...' there are still moments where she seems to contradict herself, and judgements are passed. For all it's worth, I think this is a pretty swell guide to girlhood, but I still think it's worth saying that there is more than one way to be a girl: whether you're a girl who likes to go out for a drink and a smoke or a girl who likes staying inside reading; whether you're a girl who likes slim sweaters and leggings or a girl who rocks it out in short skirts and crop tops. Whatever your style, whatever your grace, it's cool to be a girl, and we all gotta stick together!