What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel answers all the questions we never knew we had about dating abuse. Sheinmel weaves in multiple perspectives surrounding the situation with Mike Parker and his girlfriend, Maya to give us a better understanding of what really happens when victims come forward with claims of abuse. The entire time I read this novel my heart was pounding and I could not put it down.
The first part of the novel is told by two anonymous narrators, which I found to be really unique and without knowing much about the characters it made me think about who was speaking and why they held the views that they did. I felt very engaged in the book as I tried to piece together who was narrating.
While reading, I felt an emotional attachment to the main character, Maya. When Maya goes to her school principal for assistance after her boyfriend Mike hits her, I could feel the fear she was experiencing. Anger flamed through me when Principal Scott tells her, “ That is a serious accusation”(pg 11). Maya continues on to explain why Principal Scott might have been so hesitant, “ Always give the victim the benefit of the doubt. And yet: Not Mike, right? It was some other kid, some other boyfriend who did this.”
The conversation between Maya and Principal Scott reflects some of the possible reactions when survivors come forward with accusations against well-standing people in society. This interaction reminded me much of the Brock Turner case that haunted California in 2015. Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in jail after being convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault, but got out after three for “good behavior”. The judge disregarded the appeal for a six-year sentence for Turner because he was concerned with the impact of jail on Turner due to his age, and believed his judgment was impacted by alcohol. Often times the principle of “giving the victim the benefit of the doubt” is thrown out the window when the accused has privilege in society.
Furthermore, rather than fixating on the story of the abuse, the novel shows us how a teenager found herself in an abusive situation and was able to overcome. By experiencing the inner-monologues of the main characters, Maya and her friend Junie, the reader is able to grasp at what lies under the surface. The character development of Maya and Junie is phenomenal, two girls in very different situations find ways to support one another and cope.
What Kind of Girl focuses on the real issues that teenagers face, and some of the negative coping mechanisms they may use to deal with stress. While the main storyline focuses on abuse, there are similar themes of eating disorders, self harm and substance abuse. I think that this is a great book for teenagers to read because teenagers experience these issues and may feel alienated and unable to deal with them.
The biggest lesson to be learned from reading this book is that we are our own worst critics, by reading this book I realized that sometimes we won’t admit to struggling because we feel like we don’t have it bad enough to get help. No matter how big our issues may seem, What Kind of Girl shows the reader that there is always someone out there that can help you, no matter how big you think your problems are.
My rating: 5/5
ALYSSA SHEINMEL is the bestselling author of several novels for young adults including A Danger to Herself and Others, R.I.P. Eliza Hart, Faceless and Second Star. She is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and its sequel, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow Alyssa on Instagram and Twitter @AlyssaSheinmel or visit her online at alyssasheinmel.com.
What Kind of Girl will be released on Febuary 4th 2020, but can be pre-ordered online now.
Featured image via Alyssa Sheinmel