Is it true that there are unwritten rules for girls? Star student, Marin, concludes that it is. Having seemingly coasted her way to academic excellence, Marin has never considered that her life may have been influenced by tacit societal codes. Realisation is swift and brutal, when targeted by a sexually predatory teacher, Marin’s attempts to hold him to account see her collide with both academia and her peers. Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno is a great conversation starter for any young feminists in your life.
Mr Beckett (Bex) is the classic hot English teacher. A leather jacket wearing, indie folk listening (vinyl of course), Hemingway enthusing crush magnet. The first red flag for the reader pops up in an early cafeteria scene, where larking around with the kids, Bex ‘…gives my shoulder a quick squeeze through my uniform sweater.’ When Bex offers naive Marin a ride home just a few chapters later, we can guess where this is heading. His subsequent sexual advances leave Marin devastated.
Approaching the school for support, she is met with the closing of institutional ranks and a scepticism that is mirrored in some of her peers. Enraged, Marin decides to use her editorship of the school newspaper to right these terrible wrongs, her feminist awakening destined to be shared with the world in an excoriating article.
‘Put a little colour on your face…Don’t wear too much make-up. Don’t take up too much space…Don’t be easy…don’t be a prude. Don’t give him the wrong idea.’
The scales have fallen from Marin’s eyes and she appraises her life anew, railing against a school that practises everyday casual sexism and protects sexual predators.
Adult readers will already know the legendary Sex and the City author, Candace Bushnell. Her belief that ‘every generation has to relearn feminism,’ inspired this buzzing YA novel. Great for prompting impassioned debate!
Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno is published by Macmillan’s Children’s Books, 304 pages.