Review: Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy

Thursday, April 12, 2012
Genre: young-adult, contemporary fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 372 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected May 2012
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 3.65/5

Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free...until it isn't any more.

When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl...and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char...being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

Being Friends With Boys is pretty much exactly what the title makes it out to be: a light, frothy, cute read with a smidge of emotion and a lot of teenage humor. I had initially thought to pass on this and only opened the first chapter on a two-minute break at work and was immediately engaged by Charlotte's voice and story. This is what I like to call a bubblegum book - it's not a meal, or even a snack, in novel terms. It's something more predictable and fun that will have cute boys, love triangles, a foreseeable and conquerable conflict and a relatable female main character - all of which are contained within this 372 page book. What the plot may unfortunately lack in originality, the delightful characters herein more than make up for the deficit; the cast at large are actually the best part of the book.

I loved pretty much everyone in this novel - main characters and background characters too; these are fully-rounded and dimensional people- not just cookie-cutter high school stereotypes. Sure Char and the boys of Sad Jackal could be easily pigeon-holed (tomboy, prep, punk, etc.), but they're not and that's because there's more to each of them than cliched tropes used over and over in YA. Charlotte herself, though authentically and believably "one of the guys" read like a teenaged girl. McVoy had Char's voice and attitude down pat; this is one of the few "tomboyish" girl characters whose personification rang true and not hollow - Char grows and evolves  as a person but thankfully, that doesn't translate into a cliched makeover into a "girly girl". Char's interactions with her various boys are funny, awkward, frustrating and best of all, never reptetitive. It certainly helps that each boy is distinguishable and independent from the rest - you won't confuse Abe with Benji, or Fabian with Eli or Oliver with Trip because they are so individual throughout the novel.

Another favorable point for Being Friends With Boys? The healthy, and relatively stable homelife/family of the teenaged characters. It's rare and refreshing to read a young-adult novel with a discourse on modern American family's dysfunction - sure Char and Mom have issues but they're not the focus of the novel, or of Char's major personal conflict. Char's close relationship with her sister Jilly is also notable because it pretty much nails the sister-going-to-college plotline on the head but doesn't limit Char from exploring her stepfamily/sisters for new avenues of companionship. The romance might drive the main plot of the book, but I found the interactions with Char's family (and even Oliver's to a lesser degree) to be the most enjoyable - the familial conflicts are minor compared to the hormone-fueled bust-ups and breakups, but they were executed quite well with the lesser time allotted and showed even more sides to the characters involved. 

While Being Friends With Boys is not exactly a revelatory addition to the young-adult contemporary genre - a lot of its plot has been done before and will be done again - it can be loved and appreciated for what it is. And what it is,  is exactly what I said before and you would expect: a light, frothy, cute and fun read for an afternoon - don't let that near 400 page length intimidate you. Char's story is an engrossing and deceptively quick read for a novel with several love-triangles and teenage drama. Borrow it from the library and enjoy the read.

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