New Young Adult Fiction: Girl Mans Up – M-E Girard

This one caught my eye because of the cover’s nifty allusion to lesbian pulp novels of the 1970s. Given the deluge of LBGTQ stories coming out for teens these days, Girl Mans Up struck me as something a little new: The story of a butch girl trying to maintain her identity against the pressures of her Portuguese immigrant background.

Pen’s a gamer stuck in a small town. She’s “one of the guys”–kid who smokes weed and hangs out at the mall and fights with her parents a lot. Her best friend is a guy who defends her dyke identity—until the day he hits on her and things get tense.  The story is about how she negotiates this betrayal, finds a girlfriend and a deals with a love triangle (this is YA after all). But at its heart this a story about what it means to be yourself and to be a real friend.

Two starred reviews. And I think this one’s going to get a lot more attention.

 “In this powerful debut, Girard explores questions of family, friendship, loyalty, and identity through the voice of Pen Oliveira, a 16-year old girl who’s ‘not into dudes,’ looks and dresses like a boy, and doesn’t ‘get why it’s such a big deal to people, the way I am.’ …Girard forcefully conveys the fear Pen lives with, having experienced frequent mockery and bullying, and her courage in aspiring to a safe, loving community for herself and her friends.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

This is a fresh title in the growing sea of LGBTQ YA literature. There is no sugarcoating in this very real portrayal of an aspect of teen life that many experience. Recommended for fans of YA urban fiction as well as those who prefer grittier LGBTQ lit.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)

“A strong genderqueer lesbian character, imperfect, independent, and deserving of every cheer.”
— Kirkus Reviews

 “A powerful book about identity, belonging, and the collision between sexuality and cultural expectations.”
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Girl Mans Up is mind blowing. I picked it up to see if I would like it, and thirty unintentional pages later I could barely put it down. Pen has stolen my heart always. Her voice is so honest and raw that it is enrapturing. It is such an incredible look at gender, race, and sexuality that I hope it becomes an instant classic.”
— Grace Wright, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

Girl Mans Up (9780062404176) by M-E Girard. $17.99 hardcover. 9/6/16 on sale.

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