YA Review: BABE IN BOYLAND by Jody Gehrman

It’s been months since I wrote a young adult review, so I figured it was time. Plus, it helps that I just read a great one :).

Babe in Boyland by Jody GehrmanNatalie is Dr. Aphrodite–the love guru for her high school paper. But Natalie’s relationship advice is totally bombing, especially when it comes to knowing what guys really think and want. When she tries to investigate, the guys in her class won’t give her serious or straight answers.

The only solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boys boarding school in town. There “Nat” learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected–especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?

Here are the five things I loved most:

1. The premise – For some reason, I’m really a sucker for stories where girls disguise themselves as boys. It started with a few romance novels I read where the women had to dress as boys for their own protection. Then there’s this ’80s movie called “Just One of the Guys” about a girl who thought her journalism teacher wouldn’t accept her story because she was too pretty, so she disguises herself as a boy at another school. It turns out her writing still isn’t quite there, but she learns a lot through the process. (Note: I recently watched this movie again and was a bit shocked at how much … let’s say, adult content … there was.) In any case, if I were an agent or editor, this premise would be on my wish list.

2. Natalie’s journey – A character has to change for a novel to be really effective, and that definitely happens here. I think part of the reason I love books where characters are in some type of disguise is that by having to act a different way, the character learns  important truths about him/herself. In this particular book, Natalie had the opportunity to see how girls –and she–acted through a boy’s eyes, and by being aware of it, she changed. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things you probably have to experience to benefit from–so read the book!

3. The romance – I like the way the situation causes the romance to develop in a different way. On Natalie’s side, she knows what she’s feeling. On Emilio’s side, it’s as a friendship that he has to majorly reassess once he knows the truth. The fact that it’s not based on the typical boy-girl dynamics really affects the way Natalie’s feelings develop. I like this passage in particular:

“I flash on all my crushes before this, from the unnameable longing I felt for Todd Wright in the fifth grade to the halfhearted interest I took in Paul Pacaud last summer. I wanted them to like me, to lust after me, to worship me, even, but for some reason respect wasn’t a huge consideration. I was too busy trying to seem hot to ever be myself. Now, stripped of my lip gloss, my shiny hair, all my girly trappings, the thing I want most from Emilio is for him to get who I am and respect that.”

4. The humor – This connects back to the premise, but it’s just funny the situations she gets herself into and how she reacts as a girl when she’s supposed to be a boy. I’m sure you can imagine how simple things like gym class, trying to use the bathroom, etc., turn into quite humorous events.

5. The friendships – There were two sides to friendship in this book–Natalie’s close bond with her two best girlfriends and the boys she meets at Underwood. This actually becomes another part of what she learns about herself because, as you can probably imagine, a feminine-looking boy isn’t a shoo-in for the popular crowd of boys. Getting to know the geeks teaches her something else about herself that creates a change for the better.

So, what premises always get you?

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