Imogene’s mother has been blogging about her since before she was even born at Mommylicious.com, and although being in the lime-light constantly may b...moreImogene’s mother has been blogging about her since before she was even born at Mommylicious.com, and although being in the lime-light constantly may be exciting for a seven-year-old, she’s failing to see the appeal now that she’s gearing up to enter high school. Her mom has blogged about her braces, her first period, and taken far more bed-head photographs than Imogene can count. But no matter how many times Imogene tries to drop hints to her mom about cooling off on the blogging, she just doesn’t seem to get it.
Imogene is at her breaking point when her English teacher announces that every student must write a blog that counts towards their final grade for the year. Initially horrified at the idea, Imogene and her best friend Sage (whose mom runs a healthy eating blog) boycott the assignment. But after a while, Imogene begins to wonder if she can use her English project to her own benefit. How would her mom react if Imogene began blogging about her? Would it finally force her mom to see how miserable Imogene’s life has become?
I picked up Gwendolyn Heasley’s debut novel, Where I Belong, entirely on a whim back in 2012. I don’t read a lot of Young Adult fiction, but when I find an author that I love, I tend to stick with them. While Don’t Call Me Baby appeals to a slightly younger audience than Gwendolyn’s previous novels, the premise immediately grabbed my attention. I’m expecting my first child in August, and I’ve been kind of overwhelmed at the abundance of “mommy blogs” that are available. Ranging from websites insisting that you must only feed your children organic vegetables and cure all their colds with essential oils, to rants from moms who always seem to be having a bad day and make you scared of having children, to the serene but almost unreal blogs from parents who seem to have it all together—there’s something out there for everyone. Except, maybe, the children of these bloggers.
My mother doesn’t even have a Facebook account (although my grandmother does!) so I’ve never had to worry about her posting embarrassing stories about me online. But even if your mom isn’t a blogger, anyone who grew up with the internet at their finger-tips (do kids Imogene’s age even know what dial-up is?) can sympathise with Imogene’s story. Ever regretted something you posted on Twitter? Now imagine that your mom posted it, and you can’t get her to take it down, and several thousand people have already seen it. Imogene’s reactions to her mother’s blogging might be immature at times (then again, she is only fifteen) but I could certainly sympathise with her situation.
Imogene is surrounded by a fabulous cast of characters, all of whom felt real and had an important role to play in the story. There’s Sage, her best friend, whose mother has a less popular but similarly frustrating blog. Sage’s dilemma is slightly different from Imogene’s—she feels that her mother’s healthy eating kick has gotten out of hand, to the point where Sage has no control over what she eats because her mother chooses every mouthful for her. Like Imogene, she wants more independence and freedom. Then there’s Ardsley, the supposed mean girl who teases Imogene about her mom’s blog. When she’s forced to make her own blog for English project, she seeks out Imogene’s help and the two end up understanding each other a little better. I was pleased to get a humanising insight into the mind of the school’s mean girl, since this is something that a lot of YA novels don’t dare to do. And then there’s Dylan, the boy that Imogene has a crush on, who infuriates her by saying that he wishes his mom took as much interest in him as Imogene’s.
My favourite character has to be Imogene’s grandmother, Grandma Hope. She lives in Imogene’s basement, spends all day either playing golf or watching the golf channel, and insists on calling her granddaughter by her middle name, since Imogene was chosen by the readers of Mommylicious. Initially Grandma Hope just seems to be an amusing side character, but as the feud between Imogene and her mom develops, Grandma Hope finds herself thrust into the midst of their dispute. She’s a welcome voice of wisdom to all the blogging madness in this book, but her comments never come across as moralising or preachy.
Imogene’s blogging experience delves into two important issues—finding independence as a young adult, and how much is too much to share online. The first issue is one that I think will appeal to a relatively broad audience, and parents of teenage girls might find that they can gleam some insights from Don’t Call Me Baby. It’s incredibly difficult for Imogene to explain to her mom that she needs more independence. It’s about more than just being embarrassed by her mom blogging about her crush—she needs to form her own identity, away from the one her mom has created for her at Mommylicious. Crafting out your own space in the world is incredibly important for teenagers, and Don’t Call Me Baby dealt with this issue exceptionally well.
I was also surprised at how balanced a view of the blogging world this book gave. Although Imogene decides to cool off on her blogging once she’s sorted out matters with her mom, she understands why that medium of writing appeals to certain people—particularly Ardsley, who is using it as an outlet to explore her interest in fashion. While Don’t Call Me Baby encourages readers to unplug every now and then, and enjoy life without feeling the need to photograph or tweet about every experience, it also shows that blogging can be a legitimate hobby and business for some people.
Don’t Call Me Baby didn’t have any major flaws that stopped me from enjoying it. My only real complaints would be that there is a lot of brand-name dropping in this book, which was distracting at times. Sometimes the name-dropping made sense, because Iris was reviewing a product for her blog, but at other times I don’t think it was entirely necessary. And as much as I loved the lessons Grandma Hope was able to teach Imogene, there were a few points towards the end of the story where the “moral” was summarised rather overtly. I felt like the reader should have been able to pick out the lesson without needing Imogene to verbalise it as confirmation.
The reviews for Don’t Call Me Baby have been very mixed so far, and I can tell that this isn’t a book that’s going to appeal to everyone. In particular, this book is definitely better suited for younger teens. I’d say it would be best marketed to 12-15 year olds—teens who are old enough to have some sort of internet presence and be longing for a little more independence, but not so far into their adolescent years that they’re rolling their eyes when Imogene and Sage have a fight.
I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy a novel about the fifteen-year-old daughter of a Mommy Blogger, but Imogene’s story ended up being far more touching and thought-provoking than I expected. I’m glad that Gwendolyn Heasley decided to write about such a topical issue, and I hope that this novel speaks to teenagers and parents alike.
Review title provided by HarperTeen and Little Bird Publicity.(less)
For a teen, 90s, Christian version of Dawson's Creek, this book was surprisingly entertaining. I was feeling ill one night and decided that I needed t...moreFor a teen, 90s, Christian version of Dawson's Creek, this book was surprisingly entertaining. I was feeling ill one night and decided that I needed to read something that wouldn't need a lot of concentration, and this definitely fit the bill. Although some situations were contrived and there were some clichéd characters, this book was also quite touching in places and some of the characters contained a good dose of realism. I'm sure that I would have loved these books when I was a young teen, and they would have been a whole lot healthier than Sweet Valley High. I'm quite tempted to read the next book in the series, since it's only £0.77 on Kindle... 3.5*(less)
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