William C. Morris Award Finalist: Best Young Adult Debut of the Year
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words.
Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I started Girl Mans Up, and as the story unfolded, I kept being unsure, in a good way. Girard does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing while also taking us deeply into family dynamics, complicated friendships, new love and navigating queerness on multiple levels. I don't play video games save for Wii ones, while Pen, the protagonist of Girl Mans Up, is a fierce gamer. She's pretty much considered one of the guys among her guy friends, which is how she likes it. But when she starts to realize that maybe some of her friendships aren't based on loyalty (the same concept being drilled into her at home by her tough Portuguese parents, who insist she pay respeito to them), but rather on not so subtle coercive tactics, she starts to question who she should ally herself with. She also falls in love after many unrequited crushes on girls, and all of these subjects, as well as abortion, are dealt with realistically. There are no stock...
Not having been a teenager for almost twenty years, I can still find a lot of truth in this story. I think Pen might be the truest literary character I have ever encountered. By that I mean closest to my sense of identity. The story is just like Pen, soft and tender, and rough and tough. I love the portrayal of the mother's desperate dilemma of her own aspirations and her love for her daughter, the hard path of finding out there is more than one preordained way to do the right thing with your kids. Highly recommended for youth and adults.
I absolutely loved this book. I wish there were more fully realized novels dealing with gender and society's rigidness regarding gender. What this book accomplishes, I've not seen before. Pen (great name), née Penelope, pushes the boundaries of other people's expectations regarding gender, just while being her own, unique, cool self. Pen is not struggling with "figuring out" who she's is, but is struggling with how to deal with others' reactions to her. As a mother of a somewhat similar young kid, Pen represents to me a truly gorgeous role model for my daughter, unapologetic for being her own person, true to her own permutation of gender, trying to be her best self while shedding those who can't just love her for who she is.
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