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Thursday, January 15, 2015

New graphic novel, good story, tough language, hard decision

Means, Greg; Red, M.K.; Flood, Joe (2013) Cute Girl Network. New York:  First Second.

Skateboard girl Jane takes a tumble in front of Jack's soup wagon.  After a couple more meetings, they start dating.  He thinks she is beautiful and clever.  She thinks he is kind and compassionate and endearingly forgetful.  Then the Cute Girl Network steps in.  A group of girls in the city connects with each other to serve as a warning system about guys who are jerks, idiots, and generally insensitive -- so that those guys can't just keep hopping from girlfriend to girlfriend.  They contact Jane and warn her that Jack is bad news.  They arrange for her to spend time with several of Jack's Exes.  At the same time, some of Jack's friends are warning him that the only way to keep Jane is to be more forceful and commanding with her.  Will Jane realize that Jack is right for her even though he was wrong for those other girls?  Will Jack realize that what makes Jane love him is who he is, not who his friends think he should be?

It is a wonderfully quirky love story.   Jack is broke and can't afford to take Jane places.  Jane is broke and doesn't want to go to fancy places anyway.  Jack forgets things and messes up even worse when he tries to apologize.  Jane likes his honesty and imperfection.

So in many ways, it seems like a great book for high school students -- the kind of book that can serve as awake-up call to students who are too focused on status and coolness and liking someone for what they seem to be, not for who they are. 

But the book has a problem.  It is not a problem that is necessarily going to deter high school readers from it, but a problem that could get it challenged by their parents.  The book is sprinkled through with vulgar language and speaks openly about sex and various parts of the anatomy.  This is a shame, because although some of that language establishes Jane's spontaneous character, it is not really necessary for the story to unfold.

So I don't know what to tell you.  I don't think this book will work in the classroom, in a classroom library, or in a school library.  But maybe it is the sort of thing that an amazing teacher can mention to the right sort of reader, and then leave it up to them.  Or maybe not.  As I said, I don't know what to tell you. 

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