BOOKS WORTH CHECKING OUT: Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

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 Sexuality and gender identity is something we’re finally talking about more so that the next generations have it easier than we did. It’s not a rare thing these days to pick up a book and find out that some characters are gay (without that being promoted too much) and it’s even easier to find some good studies about different sexualities and understanding of gender. Even with all that, this books is really interesting because it’s about lesbians but not your typical lesbians, in fiction anyway.

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Penelope (Pen) is a 16 year old girl who goes to a Catholic all girls school. She loves video games and she has a problematic relationship with her Portuguese family.

I was sure that Pen will at some moment have a coming out as non-binary or trans, given that she talks a lot and in great depth about “not feeling like a girl”. But she didn’t. She is a girl, just not the kind of girl someone who firmly believes in gender norms would approve. I’d say she’s like a majority of lesbians I know and still that’s the first time I read about a character like this in fiction. Why is that? I’m not sure but I think it has a lot to do about wanting to make lesbians look like “every other girl” meaning that some people believe that every girl, even lesbians, should be feminine. We live in a crazy world like that.

Pen knows she likes girls. She’s lucky like that. But she also doesn’t think she’ll ever get a girl to like her for who she is. So she helps her friend Colby pick up girls.

Colby is a great example of toxic masculinity in high school boys. He likes Pen because she’s “like a guy”, he cheats on his girlfriend and even forces Pen to hook up with him. And Pen, believing that he’s her only friend, allows him certain things for a long time before she can get away.

Pen has to deal with everything on her own. She doesn’t have a positive influence (except her brother), she has problems with her family and especially her mother, she doesn’t have self confidence, she ‘s not sure what she wants to look like. She’s a typical teenager, only with many more problems. And she gets to get a good life because she believes in certain things and fights for them.

I’d love to see more girls like Pen everywhere.

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