What’s a Girl Gotta Do?
Usborne (2016), YA Contemporary
This feminist is READY to declare war on the patriarchy.
In the third book of Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club trilogy*, Lottie, the fiercest of the trio, goes on a feminist crusade to call out every instance of sexism she sees for a whole month. After being sexually harrassed on her way to college, Lottie decides that enough is enough and she is going to take a stand, against every sexist song, poster and comment. Lottie is strong, but she doesn’t realise just how difficult her task may be…
I didn’t think I could love Holly Bourne any more than I already did, and then she wrote What’s a Girl Gotta Do? Her writing is so strong, she perfectly captures the sense of frustration that comes with dealing with sexism. As Lottie says:
I’m not psychic, I’m just highly experienced in sexual harrassment, like pretty much every other girl on this earth who dares to walk places.
The things Lottie calls out (razors costing more because they’re pink, the lack of female writers on the school curriculum, depictions of women in advertising) may seem small, but as she observes they all contribute to a culture of objectification. Just as Lottie opens her fellow students’ eyes to the sexism around them, I think Bourne will awaken feminist sensibilities in her teen (and older) readers.
Lottie has her moments of triumph, but she also has to deal with trolls, or the realisation of just how much work there is to do in the struggle for gender equality. Bourne shows how difficult it can be to strive for what you believe in, and how fatigue and frustration can set in. Lottie ultimately decides that she has to fight for what is right, but the pressure her project puts on her is clear. Lottie is a confident and powerful character, but we also see her vulnerabilities in this book, and she sees the error in some of her behaviour. I liked that Bourne made a point about everyone having to deal with problems in their own way.
This book (and indeed, the whole series) deals with some tricky topics but never in a preachy way. Bourne’s writing is humorous and entertaining. What’s a Girl Gotta Do? is really funny. Lottie’s project is called ‘The Vagilante Project’ and has the fantastic tagline ‘Letting the cat lady out of the bag.’ The friendship between the girls is brilliantly written and I like that Bourne also shows the strains that can come into friendships. She creates relationships that are credible and complex. I liked the romance element of the book, and (slightly spoilery) Evie and Oli getting together made me extremely happy.
Lottie is ambitious and fiery, she wants to be prime minister and make a change in the world:
…someone has to be prime minister. Why can’t it be me? I am smart enough. I am strong enough. And I really, honestly want to take this shitty world we live in and use whatever strength, intellect and passion I have to leave it a little better off than when I found it. I don’t just want to complain about the world, I want to change it.
A truly brilliant conclusion to one of the best YA trilogies out there at the moment. I only wish Bourne’s fierce feminist books had been around when I was a teenager!
* While this book does refer to events from Am I Normal Yet? and How Hard Can Love Be? I think it also works as a stand alone.
Here I am being excited about What’s a Girl Gotta Do?, and about seeing Holly Bourne at DeptCon2 in October!