Friday, 3 August 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'What Girls Are Made Of' by Elana K. Arnold (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am excited to review another brilliant book I have read recently - What Girls Are Made Of by Elena K. Arnold. When I first read the blurb for this book, I had high expectations that it would be an important, fierce feminist read. I'm pleased to say that I was not disappointed :)

What Girls Are Made Of follows sixteen-year-old Nina, who is just coming to terms with being a young woman, and is for the first time experiencing all that comes with it. New relationships, not having control over her body and its functions, the simultaneous beauty and the goriness of it. Nina's relationship with her boyfriend, Seth, is perhaps the most confusing part of it all. Is pain an inseperable part of love? Could she have been a better version of herself, even if she wasn't loved in the first place? All of this is explored and more, in this brutal yet tender portrayal of a girl growing up, and discovering that what girls are made of, is perhaps the most complex question of all.

I was kindly sent What Girls Are Made Of by Andersen Press in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

A 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature Finalist

This is not a story of sugar and spice and everything nice.

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now Nina is sixteen. And she'll do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What if she is not a girlfriend? What is she made of?

Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are. She's been volunteering at a high-kill animal shelter where she realizes that for dogs waiting to be adopted, love comes only to those with youth, symmetry, and quietness. She also ruminates on the strange, dark time her mother took her to Italy to see statues of saints who endured unspeakable torture because of their unquestioning devotion to the divine. Is this what love is?

This was definitely not a comfortable read, but often, the most important books aren't comfortable, and that's the point. What Girls Are Made Of really made me explore and scrutinize what it really means to be a woman, and how if you think about it, not much has changed in terms of how people view women who overstep the boundaries. I thought this book was an honest and unflinching portrayal of what it means to be a woman, and what women are made of - both physically and emotionally. I think all the discussion about sex, contraception, and abortion were all very well dealt with - and were both honest and informative, without any frills. It's so important to have topics like these normalised in fiction, particularly YA fiction, because they are a normal part of everyday life for women, things they are constantly taught to be ashamed of. 

I think Nina was a very interesting character, and was portrayed as a realistic teenage girl. She wasn't perfect, but then which teenage girl is? Her experiences, however confused and messy, were portrayed brilliantly - Arnold did not shy away from describing Nina's experiences such as abortion and orgasm in minute detail. Although this wasn't easy reading, I did really appreciate the effort made to show the female experience in all its (at times) gruesome detail. 

I liked the interludes in between chapters that were 'written' by Nina, exploring what it means to be a woman, using examples from history and myth, and I really enjoyed the distinct flavour of magical realism in these passages. I think these sections added gorgeously to what the book was trying to do, in terms of sharing every aspect of what it means to be a woman, and how the experience can actually inspire creativity in the most magical way. 

Altogether, although it was definitely not easy reading, I very much enjoyed What Girls Are Made Of. It is an incredibly thought-provoking, intricate exploration of sex, society and the circumstances that shape a person to what they become. The writing was exquisite, and I hope many more young women and men read this book, as it is an undeniably important novel.

Check out Elana K. Arnold here:

Until next time :)

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