Young Adult Materials Book Review: Finding Readers for Girl Mans Up by M. E Girard.
(In this review, I will be discussing readers’ advisory/connections with other media around the novel Girl Mans Up by M.E Girard (2016). For any followers of my blog, I have created a handy Girl Mans Up Readalike List that can be used to promote this book and other materials).
Girard, M.E (2016). Girl Mans Up. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Gr 8 and up.
While LGBT representation is a central draw for this book, literary merit, well-developed characters, and intense realism with regards to common teen issues make this novel appealing for a broad audience. Readers of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower, or Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay could be directed towards this novel with assurances that it packs a similar emotional punch while delivering on honest, close-to-home depictions of lives which may resemble theirs in some ways even while differing vastly in others. Immigrant parents’ attitudes towards their children’s interests, parents who fail to be present, teen pregnancy, and ending abusive relationships/friendships are handled in this book in a way that feel very up-to-date, smart, and honest. Other books that do similar work are Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel, Gabi: A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero, and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez. Real Women Have Curves, a 2004 film, also discusses being the daughter of overbearing parents and exploring one’s own sexuality and autonomy.
Despite its probable success with a range of readers , promotion of this book through the lens of its gay/gender-focused content is nonetheless totally appropriate. Even in 2018, YA books featuring butch protagonists are rare. Pen’s struggles with the way other people react to her presentation are deeply relevant to LGBT teens and should be included in dialogue around anti-trans discrimination; even though Pen is not trans, people react to her in ways informed by transphobia and homophobia. Young gay and gender-nonconforming patrons interested in this book for its central character’s masculine presentation, confidence in her sexuality, sense of honor, and resilience may also be interested in Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth, Skim by Mariko Tamaki, and/or Deliver Us From Evie by M.E Kerr.
This novel takes on gender and sexuality with enough complexity to be useful to older teenagers already reading adult content. Depending on reader interest/maturity, patrons who are into memoirs and comics about gender presentation and sexuality might be into Girl Mans Up, and patrons who start with Girard might in time enjoy Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, On Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin, Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, All Ways Butch and Femme by Zina Sharman and Ivan Coyote, or The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman. Patrons interested in butch presentation and history may also be interested in lesbian singer Phranc, or the butch/transmasculine 2001 film By Hook or By Crook.