I'll tell you why I bothered picking up this book: (1) I loved the graffiti-like cover, which reminded me of the doodling I used to pen over my books...moreI'll tell you why I bothered picking up this book: (1) I loved the graffiti-like cover, which reminded me of the doodling I used to pen over my books in high school, and (2) I really respect and enjoy Eve Ensler's writing. I saw a performance of The Vagina Monologues and loved the subversive way she used humor and fictional stories to tackle real women's issues around the world. So, when I saw that she had released a similar collection, but targeted for girls and teens, I instantly had to pick it up.
I think this book isso important. I think today's young girls are growing up so quickly and there are less outlets for them to discuss important issues, like abusive relationships and safe sex, or at least, it isn't coming from a source that is from "their generation." Peppered throughout the collection are statistics called "Girl Facts" with shocking numbers on prostitution, sex slavery, eating disorders, and other girl-related issues. Apart from the Girl Facts, though, I loved how these ideas and issues are tackled through the voices of other young women and girls around the world. This collection of monologues, poems, and short stories creates a sisterhood, almost, of females who share similar bonds, despite background, interests, language, etc. That kind of unity is so great and empowering, especially during that awkward period where young girls feel like no one else feels this awkward emotions or that no one "gets" them. I think with so much real suffering happening in other parts of the world, it's difficult to remember that girls in first-world countries have their own voices and stories needing to be told, and just because it isn't anything news-worthy, doesn't mean it isn't a problem or question or anxiety worth addressing...
That being said, my favorite pieces in the collection were the fictionalized accounts of the young women in other parts of the world (as in, not America/UK). There is a great story called "Free Barbie," about a young Chinese girl working in an assembly-line doll factory, and probably my favorite piece is an epistolary poem/letter about a young female suicide bomber. In all of these stories, esp. the ones from girls in developing or Third-world countries, there is such strength and resilience in their voices, that even someone past puberty can feel their empowerment and be proud to be a girl. All of the stories (it is so hard to select a choice few) are so moving, but there was one story, about a young girl who was upset that her parents got her a nose job, that I thought was so quirky and wonderful that I had to share an excerpt with you:
"I miss my nose. Every day I rub it and dream of telling lies like Pinocchio so it will grow back. I went on this secret date with a boy who told me I was pretty. [...:] I'm fake pretty. He didn't understand and so he kissed me 'cause that's what boys do when they don't know something and don't want to look stupid/ When he kissed me there was nothing in the way. It was too easy. I didn't even have to make a joke about it. And that was sad 'cause the joke about my nose always made the guy laugh and then we both relaxed and kissing was always so much better then."
I really love what this collection does. It doesn't aim to make men the enemy. It's message is, You know, it's okay to like boys -- if that's what you like-- and nothing's wrong with that, but you know, make sure you like and respect yourself too. And I love how it celebrates girls like that. I think, considering the target audience, this book is definitely 5 stars in terms of relevance and importance, but even as an older reader, I still got a lot out of it. Some stories about sex trafficking or dealing with being a "masculine" girl were so amazing, but some of the more experimental free verse passages didn't always do it for me. (Also, I think I might have benefited more if I had read this about 5 years ago, when the insecurity and all that was more intense.) This does reference some graphic sexual and adult themes, which are important to read about (in my opinion), but some more conservative families or younger readers should be aware of that. Regardless, I loved it and will definitely keep it around to flip through and read a couple more times throughout my lifetime.