________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 28. . . .March 26, 2010


Girl v. Boy.

Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout.
New York, NY: Hyperion (Distributed in Canada by H. B. Fenn), 2008.
314 pp., pbk., $11.50.
ISBN 978-1-4231-0161-1.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Megan Lankford.

*** /4



Although Izzy complains about her parents’ salon, I notice she hangs out there even when she’s not scheduled to work. She certainly enjoys the perks: free color, cuts, and manicures. No one has seen her natural, mousy brown hair for years.

“At least you came home from work looking—— and smelling—— better than when you went in,” I say. “I stank of stale coffee and french fries.” And my perfume isn’t likely to change anytime soon, because I work at Dan’s Diner year-round. Rachel and Izzy aren’t allowed to work during the school term because they have to focus on their studies. With Dunfield leading the district only in the area of dropout rates, a lot of parents worry.

Rachel’s mom does more than that. She reviews Rachel’s homework daily, sweeps her bedroom for drugs weekly, meets with her teachers monthly, and performs irregular—— and unannounced—— locker checks. It’s pretty embarrassing for Rachel, but at least her mother cares.

My mother cares about me, but she’s not interested in my schoolwork, or education in general. She dropped out of Dunfield herself after tenth grade when she got pregnant with Grace. Now she’s a nursing assistant at Cook County Hospital, working mostly nights for the higher wage.

Even with all the extra shifts Mom picks up, we don’t live in luxury. There’s always food in the fridge, and I never have to scrimp on school supplies or class trips, but Mom’s paycheck doesn’t stretch much farther than that. I need my job if I want to have a cell phone and decent jeans. Plus, if Mom’s feeling the pinch at the end of the month, I have to help out with the bills.

When high school junior Luisa Perez accepts the role of anonymous columnist for her high school newspaper, she unknowingly steps into the position that will catapult her from high school boredom and obscurity into a new world of notoriety. Positioned around the Chicago City Literacy Challenge, Lu, along with an unknown male columnist, document the fundraising events as the males and females at Dunfield High each attempt to outdo each other. What starts as innocent reporting escalates to a full-on battle of the sexes in print. While attempting to navigate herself through the sexual politics at hand, Lu enters the dating world head-on, spars with her older sister, and works part-time at a neighborhood diner to help keep her family together.

    While the premise of girls v. boys might be off-putting to some readers, Collins and Rideout have meticulously created a story in which the quirky and realistic characters emerge to overshadow the gendered storyline. Lu and her two best friends mirror authentic teenagers, from their initial disapproval of anything “extra-curricular” to their sometimes-inane focus on boys. While Collins and Rideout use these character traits to build connections to the reader, they inevitably create believable, strong, smart girl characters that are worthy of praise and admiration. While the writers do create certain “issues” in Luisa’s life, such as literacy, teen pregnancy, and high school dropouts, they do not highlight these as the main focus of the book. Instead Collins and Rideout weave these into the background and setting, perhaps making them more effective to the average reader.


Megan Lankford is a student at the University of British Columbia earning a Masters of Arts in Children's Literature.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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