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BookRatMisty

BookRatMisty

Babe in Boyland

Babe in Boyland - I know I say this every time I review a contemporary novel, but I rarely actively want to read contemporary. I just can't get over this roadblock in my head that says contemporary is either Gossip Girl fluff or slit-your-wrists depressing. This, despite all of the incredible contemporary I've read. Whatever, welcome to my brain. The point is, I rarely wishlist contemporary books, but Babe in Boyland, for whatever reason*, was one I wishlisted. So when Jody emailed me, asking if I'd like to review Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, and also offered up Boyland, I jumped at it. And once again, I was reminded of why I need to take down that roadblock, brick by brick, because I'm missing out on really good contemporary books.This was funny. Really funny. Like, laugh out loud, snorting and chortling and reading parts over again, funny. Natalie just sparkles on the page, she is so thoroughly likable and engaging. Most readers will be familiar with the story because, lets face it, we've seen it before. This is a pretty common trope, actually**. But there's a reason it cycles back periodically - there's something compelling in it, and something with built in shenanigans, which always makes for a good time - but I think Gehrman puts her own stamp on things quite nicely, and Natalie is so engaging that I don't think I would even care if it was an exact play-by-play of something else. Though the men at school may hate Natalie's alter-ego, Dr. Aphrodite, and may think Natalie is clueless, it's hard not to like Natalie herself as a narrator. She is clueless in the beginning, but adorably so, and she doesn't stay clueless for long.The friendships are fantastic as well - the interactions and the confronting of stereotypes/cliques, etc., are nicely handled. It's sadly rare to see positive female friendships in books these days - they tend to go either Mean Girl or Cardboard; if they're not flat and boring and easily substituted, they're competitive, combative, snide, and fake. Less friends, more frenemies. It's sad because while, yes, occasionally one girl may have that relationship with another girl - who may or may not be her friend - that's not the standard. (Surprise! Girls can be friends! Anne and Diana aren't faking it!) Natalie has good, tried and true, close friends who she cares about and who care about her, and help her in her ever-increasing shenanigans. (This isn't to say they don't have their ups and downs, because that would also be cardboard; but they don't serve as a shallow plot device, and I appreciate that.) The boys in Boyland start out as stock characters and evolve from there, much as they should in this type of story - they are fleshed out as Natalie realizes how little she knows, and opens her mind to get to know them, allowing the reader to do the same. Basically, character dynamics were a win in Boyland.And - that's it.I don't really have negatives, honestly. Some will feel like it's been done, and it has, and if that bothers you as a reader, you should maybe skip this. But as they say, there's nothing new under the sun, and I think most people either won't have come across this trope often enough to be bothered by it, or will like it too much to care.  It reads like it could easily be a movie (partly because its type has been, partly because Gehrman is also a playwright and she put those skills to work).  Babe in Boyland is now another in a longer-by-the-minute list of contemporary books that have done their best to convince me to start reading more contemporary. This super quick read (I devoured it in one sitting) was engaging throughout, and despite any unoriginality in the plot, I don't have any reservations in recommending it.Also: Emilio Cruz. Win.*Gender-bending. Gender-bending was the reason. And the cover, because seriously? Gold star, I love it.** In fact, one such similar work, the 80's movie Just One of the Guys, even centers around the main character doing her cross-dress thang in an effort to win a journalism contest. Which is Natalie's goal. So there's that...