Author: Jody Gehrman
Publication Date: 2/17/11
Blurb (GR): When high school junior Natalie - or Dr.
Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper - is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only
solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected - especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?
For those of you who read my reviews, this one might feel like a bit of déjà vu.
Which is exactly how this book feels to me. Granted, sometimes this premise is done well. But mostly, it’s not.
I actually think that this theme could use a reboot, especially in this day and age, with gender roles becoming more and more fluid and undefined. I would love to see one of these characters discover that the old, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” paradigm is a load of crap and that we’re all actually just human beings, more similar than we are different. Why do boys say they’ll call but then don’t? Perhaps because they’re playing into age old stereotypes about how they’re supposed to act, or perhaps they’re just nervous about failing miserably, like we all are. Is it true that boys think about sex every eight seconds? No, that’s not true. They actually think about it every five seconds, just like we all do.
So yes, this book does not exactly bring anything new to the table. In fact, while I was reading it I was so strongly reminded of that 1980’s film, “Just One of the Guys” that I made my entire family re-watch it with me in the name of research. On Christmas. It’s a good thing that they love me.
It turns out that there really are quite a few similarities. Both main characters are high school journalism students, who cross dress in the name of research and are hoping to win a prize. Both characters infiltrate a new school. Both are popular as girls, but then become losers as boys. Both characters are bullied by the popular guy. Both can’t seem to get their boy persona quite right, until they give in and stuff a sock down their pants. Both have that scene where they run to a boys’ urinal, only to stare at it in dismay. Both must fend off unwanted advances from a girl. Both end up falling for a boy who’s a loser-fringe type guy but also has a perfect physique and a winning personality (because you know, that happens).
But I guess that I could have just described many of the large number of movies, television shows, and books that have all capitalized on this idea.
I did enjoy Natalie learning to appreciate the “underdogs hiding in plain sight” around her, and her growing respect for the non-superficial characteristics. But then most of that seems nullified when she falls for Emilio, a character who has very little substance at all, and seems mostly defined by his stellar abs and caramel skin.
And if anything, Natalie emerges from her little experiment with gender roles even more solidly defined. ”There is a divide, though, between male and female worlds, and those worlds have different rules, different customs, different cultures.”She exults in her freedom from “boyhood”, becoming even “girlier” by wearing pink and glitter and indulging in exaggerated emotional responses.
This is a fun, fluffy, cute read but it’s been done before. Many times. If you’re looking for something novel or revolutionary, I would give this one a pass.
Perfect Musical Pairing
If you’re going to flash back to the eighties anyway, might as well just go there! For journalism antics,
cross-dressing, and traditional gender roles only slightly challenged, I would actually suggest watching this movie! It has a zany brother! And thirty year olds playing high schoolers! And boobs!