Monday, July 8, 2013

September Girls.....NOT a sexist novel!

Book:  September Girls
Author:  Bennett Madison
Publisher:  Harper Teen
Date:  Now available
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
My grade:  A+

When Sam's dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he's all for it-- at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him.

Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she's different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he's going to get her back, he'll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here. (Cover and description from

Initial Reaction
Dammit!  I still don’t really understand the mystery of the Girls!!!

Cover Story
Gorgeous!  Except for…….let’s say it all together…..the kissing!!!  Why do they have to do this on books?  Oh well.  This is not the worst kissing cover.  I like the title.  It’s interesting and it’s subtle in the way it relates to the story.

What’s the Story?
Ok, if you have been to Goodreads, you will see that this book has a LOT of negative reviews.  There’s all sorts of talk about slut shaming, misogyny and basically how this book is probably about to cause the fall of Western civilization as we know it.

Seriously?  I think that a lot of people are completely overreacting and not understanding the sarcasm of this book.  So I feel the need to address some of the things that have people all up in arms over this book.

  1. Jeff, who is Sam’s older brother, really is a slut shaming douche bag at the beginning of the novel.  Yes, he is a loser who has some antiquated ideas about girls, but his brother recognizes this!!  And Sam’s inner monologue makes fun of it!  Sam knows that the way his brother treats women is not the way they should be treated.  Honestly, I don’t think Jeff even believes what he says.  He’s just trying to figure out what it means to be a man and he’s not getting a lot of guidance.
  2. Jeff actually improves by the end of the novel.  Yes, he grows as a person and by the end of the novel he is no longer talking about “getting his brother laid” and other sexist and raunchy things.
  3. A lot of people are very concerned about the way Sam talks about his penis.  I wonder how many 17 year old boys these people have been around.  In my experience (20 years as a teacher of adolescents), teenage boys think about penises all the time.  They talk about them a lot.  For heaven’s sake, they draw them on everything!  They are obsessed with their penises! 
  4. Most of the offensive language happens between the two brothers.  They don’t talk this way to the girls.  In other words, between the boys, they speak Locker Room.  In my opinion, this is completely normal.  Now, if they used this language to the actual girls they spoke to, that would be bad.  But, like it or not, boys talk this way to one another. ::shrugs::  I think in real life, it’s a lot of bravado and that’s how it comes across in this novel.

I felt like this was a very realistic coming of age story for Sam, even though it was a paranormal story line.  I think that Sam was dealing with lots of things.  His mother has left home and he doesn’t really know why.  His father is floundering and doesn’t know what to do.  He has a brother who still hasn’t found his way either.  Here are 2 brothers trying to figure out what it means to be a man and a father who is so lost that he can’t help them.  Sam is not sure what to do, but he knows enough to not follow his brother’s example and he just doesn’t get much from his dad.  But, by the end of the novel, Sam has a made a lot of progress toward becoming not just a man, but a better man.

The way the novel is written is part of its success.  Even though the novel is full of raunchy “boy talk”, it still has this ephemeral quality to it.  Now, I know some of you are thinking “Tammy, how can boys talk about their penises in a way that is ephemeral?”, but I’m not kidding when I tell you that.  It’s the way that the language and the story work together that make the whole paranormal aspect of the novel even plausible.  Somehow, the author has ingeniously put together a poetic prose story that is still true to the hormonally charged thoughts and speech of teen boys.  Amazing!!

Now, this is not to say that I don’t have some issues with this novel.  I do.  I never really understood exactly where the Girls came from.  What the hell does it mean that “our mother is the Deepness and our father is the Endlessness”?  Huh??  I wanted the mystery solved, not some sort of vague explanation!

I also think that the novel started out slow.  Of course, once I became involved with Sam, I really latched on to the story.  I really think that Sam is a very sympathetic character.  I just wanted to jump in the novel and be his mother.  I wanted to hit his real mom for abandoning him at this critical juncture in his life, even though he eventually reconciles himself to the whole situation.  Another nitpicky problem I had was with the names that the girls chose.  They were cheesy. 

All in all though (nitpicking aside), I think that this book was wonderful.  I loved the main character and I was interested in the story.  It’s not a book that I will read over and over again, but it’s a book that I’m still thinking about 2 weeks after I read it. It is definitely NOT offensive or misogynist.  In the end, it was really a poetically written story about how to become a man and what that means.  I really think it’s worth reading and I think that this book is in the vein of those classic coming of age novels that tend to polarize and offend people.  I mean, parents are still fighting Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s boy stories are still offending people after all these years.  So, Bennett Madison?  Good job!!  You know you've written something worthwhile when you can offend lots of people. : )

The Soundtrack

Hard Candy by Counting Crows

Walk Unafraid by R.E.M.

100 Years by Five for Fighting

Twilight by U2

The Last Song by The All-American Rejects

Simple Man by Shinedown

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book was an A+.  I waited to write this review and I’m still savoring this story and what it meant.  Sam was a wonderfully sympathetic character who will, no doubt, become a wonderful man.  I think that everyone should read this book and judge for him or herself the validity of the novel.

For an even more beautifully written review of this book, check out this one from The Book Smugglers.  They manage to say all the things that I have struggled to say in my own review.  Also check out the glowing review from Forever Young Adult.  I loved reading it!

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review.  Especially not a more expressive way of sharing my love for this story.  

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