Here's a thing that's strange: I like reading YA books.
On the face of it, that doesn't seem strange, except that I'm a guy, and that doesn't seem to be acceptable to publishers, book designers, marketing departments, and a whole host of other folks who are responsible for getting YA books onto shelves. No surprise, it's why guyslitwire exists, really.
But yesterday, a new book came into the store, and, despite having a generic YA cover with a girl's face(seen here on the book's goodreads.com page), and an awkward/not quite punny title: Life After Theft, I took a look at the description (maybe it was because of the awkward title?).
It's about a guy who's haunted by the ghost of a klepto, and he agrees to return the stuff she stole so she'll stop haunting him.
That's a book I'm interested in! That's a book with a hook, one which (I think) guys as well as gals will be intrigued by. But the cover and the title? Especially the cover? No guy will ever read it.
That's something deftly avoided by Terra McVoy's newest paperback release, Being Friends With Boys. It's about a girl in high school who's part of a band (she's their manager and writes the songs), and everyone else involved is a guy. The cover is understated, and has a heart in the coffee cup, but it's dark blue and doesn't chase me away. No, I'm intrigued. And for good reason.
Cover aside, I wanted to read BFWB because I've read and enjoyed McVoy's other books (I've even reviewed one or two here), and the topic intrigued me: This looked like the perfect way to "get in the head" of those friends who are girls. You know, the girls you hang out with as pals?
Only, once I started reading it, I realized that wasn't the case. It hit me when I read this passage-- This is Charlotte, the main character in the book, discussing the sometimes awkward state of being a girl and having a friend-who-is-a-boy, as opposed to a boyfriend:
"But as my long friendship with Oliver--and even Abe--has proven, when you're friends with a boy and then suddenly you have to talk about dating, it can get strange... It's important to stay expressionless when it happens, even though you also have to keep doling out girl-side advice. Because that's why they're telling you. They want to know what it's like from a girl's side. But if you ever attempt doing the reverse--talking about your own hookups or crushes--and especially if you even slightly mention any kind of physical whatever, everything shuts down and gets awkward. It's safer to be completely neutral on the matter. It's safer if they don't think you have a vagina at all."It was that last line that snapped it all in place for me-- this wasn't a story where I get to see what it's like from the other side, but my story. Let me explain: I'm like Charlotte. I'm the guy who is always friends with girls. Read that quote again, only substitute "boy" for "girl" (and boy parts for girl parts).
As I read of Charlotte wrangling her way through this group of guys she loves (as you love those closest to you: your boon companions, your friends for life, your family away from family), and trying to figure out what it means to love (desire, attract and be attracted) and not let the two mix, or mix messily-- it all brought back those times in my life: in high school (when I was once called "one of the girls" --ugh), in college ("hey Justin, you know guys-- what should I make of this thing this guy I like said?"), and in work (nearly everyone I work with at the bookstore is female) when I was "being friends with girls."
So-- Read this book. Read it because it's good, read it especially if you're that sensitive guy who is surrounded by friends who are girls, girls who are your deepest friends, girls who you think you get, until you both truly open up to each other, and you discover there's more to them, and you, than you ever knew.
Being Friends With Boys, by Terra McVoy
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