Rules for being a girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno
HarperCollins, 2020. ISBN: 9781529036084. 293pp.
(Age: 15+) Highly Commended. Marin & Chloe are friends who both have crushes on Mr Beckett (Bex), their hip, young English Teacher. Marin's boyfriend, Jacob, is the school Jock but she often stays late after school, working on the school newspaper with Bex. Marin aspires to a career in journalism at Brown University but after accepting a ride home via Bex's house, the plot quickly becomes a cautionary tale. Naively, Marin is certainly not prepared for what happens when Bex crosses the line.
The upside to Bex's unapologetic betrayal of trust, if there is one, is Marin's awakening to the feminist perspective. Marin, already critical of the gender inequities in the school dress code, identifies more gaps in resources and expectations between the two genders. Jacob struggles to support the 'new' Marin, who pens a cathartic editorial about the confusion and double standards experienced by young women, entitled "The Rules for Being a Girl".
"Don't be one of those girls who can't eat pizza. You're getting the milk shake too? Whoa. Have you gained weight? Don't get so skinny your curves disappear. Don't get so curvy you aren't skinny. Don't take up too much space. It's just about your health . . . ." (page 81)
When Marin confides in Chloe, she is jealous rather than supportive. Principal DioGuardi also accepts Bex's account. For much of the story, Marin turns to Gray, a boy who admired her editorial and joined the feminist book club, to navigate the sexist policies the students are subjected to. Despite his temporary triumph, Bex is angry that Marin would seek to harm his career by snitching. He sinks to new lows to hurt Marin for "breaking the rules". A true heroine, Marin overcomes the devastating setback and teaches her own lesson - one that will chasten both Mr Beckett and Principal DioGuardi.
An impressive snapshot of a typical High School culture, Bushnell and Cotugno have created a worthy role model and guide in Marin. Her journey and her pivotal "Rules for Being a Girl" editorial, should be mandatory reading for all teenage girls.