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What Girls Are Made Of

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,233 ratings  ·  507 reviews
A 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature Finalist

This is not a story of sugar and spice and everything nice.

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now Nina is sixteen. And she'll do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Ni
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published April 1st 2017 by Carolrhoda
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Karen Robertson-tran this book needs a trigger warning about a lot of things...animal death, violence to women

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Emily May
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
“As long as there have been women,” Mom told me, “there have been ways to punish them for being women.”

4 1/2 stars. Oh god, I can already imagine how hated this book will be. I've seen Arnold's books in the past, noted their starred reviews from popular journals, and then turned away when GR reviewers pulled the average rating down to 3.6, 3.5, 3.4. After reading this book, I took a closer inspection and I see over and over again: “unlikeable narrator”, “depressing”, “disturbing” “fucked up
Mary McCoy
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When I was growing up, I always loved books that allowed me to learn about things that the adults in my life didn't think I should know. This is a book like that.

It's not an easy read. The main character volunteers at a high-kill animal shelter, punishment for something horrible she did to another student at her school. The book is full of caged animals and stories of female saints violently martyred for Jesus.

At the same time, the book also normalizes, demystifies, and brings into the open the
Such a short book, and upsetting and painful in so many varied ways. I liked it and I think it's important, but I am getting weary of such a dire view of womanhood. Maybe too many feminist stories back to back? I am ready to read about healthy realationships and some non-beastly men.

Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I literally just finished this so maybe I will get around to writing a comprehensive review. (Though, let’s be honest, unlikely...)

I will say the Author’s Note at the end was one of most powerful and honest things I have ever read. If you read nothing of this book but that note you won’t be disappointed.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What Girls are Made Of is a great example of how empathy should work in literature and, in particular, that genre we call Young Adult literature. Empathy is not just an identification with, or a “stepping into the shoes of”, nor is it our simple “liking” of the fictional character. Empathy may contain all those emotional elements but if there is no appeal to the mind and to the understanding, then you end up with what feels like sentimental manipulation on the part of the author. Arnold’s portra ...more
Canadian Reader
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, why not?” Ruth says.
“Do you believe in unconditional love?”
“Absolutely,” Ruth says. “It’s one of the most dangerous forces in the universe.”
“What do you mean?”
“Unconditional love is how dogs feel about their masters. Dogs love their masters no matter how badly they’re beaten, how rarely they’re fed, and how terribly they’re cared for. They don’t know any better than to love without conditions.”
“That’s not what I mean,” I say. “I mean, between people.”
“There is
Well, damn.

I thought I loved Infandous, but this, THIS, is a killer story about being a girl. It's raw and gross and unsettling and perfect.
If you’re looking for something that is going to push boundaries, and not hold back on much of the goriness of being a girl, this could well be the kind of book you’re after.

In What Girls Are Made Of, Nina Faye journeys from obtaining birth control through to the gory details of going through a medical abortion. Readers are shown her obsession with a boy named Seth, both before, during, and after dating him.
Is reciprocity a condition for love? I have always accepted that my mother is right – tha
Mara YA Mood Reader
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2019
Explicit but in a more educational way. Reminds me of Forever by Judy Blume.

Depressing and blunt and to the point.

I enjoyed the author’s note at the end more than the book. But I’m 20 years too late to gain much from it.

Austral Scout
Arnold is witty and sharp and not for me.

Excerpt from full review:
I'm disappointed the answer to "What Girls Are Made Of?" is not, "A diverse spectrum of things -- conservative, adventurous, beautiful, brave, shy, capable, worthy of love and respect -- we are all so different and all deserve to be loved as we find our way." Instead it is more like, "We're sexual, subordinate, spiteful, lonely and did I mention, sexual? And we are d*mn-well allowed to be!" The problem with this answer is that som
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very serious book. but must read for all the girls & women out there.
Book Riot Community
Arnold’s author note in her book talks about the inspiration coming from the idea of girls being “sugar and spice and everything nice.” She talks about the shame she felt about the idea of never living up to that standard growing up, that things like her body and its normal functions were shameful things for her to even think about. This plays out in her powerhouse book.

Nina’s boyfriend Seth is her world. She’ll do anything to make him happy. To have his attention. But when the relationship ends
I just finished this and I'm so glad it was my first read of 2018, I don't think any review will do this book justice. I loved it.

It's not what you think, it's not only based on love or unconditional love, there are many others things, it's entirely different and I can tell not so many are going to like what it's about. I found myself relating to a lot of situations that was mentioned in the book just like any 16 years old girl would do! some thoughts that we all shared, things we would have do
Melissa Stacy
"As long as there have been women," Mom told me, "there have always been ways to punish them for being women." (page 156)

The 2017 YA contemporary novel, "What Girls Are Made Of," by Elana K. Arnold, is a masterwork. The plot, character arc, thematic story elements, and prose style all combine in a tour de force of literary prose -- deceptively packaged and sold as a Young Adult book.

If you enjoy reading the poetry, short stories, novels and nonfiction of Margaret Atwood, and/or if you love to re
May 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-star
I’m pretty conflicted on this one. I loved the brutal honesty and the message, but I really didn’t enjoy reading this much at all. 2 1/2 stars

This is a coming of age story of Nina, a teenage girl with a crappy boyfriend and a crappy mom who once told Nina that unconditional love does not exist. We watch Nina grow and find herself over this short novel of less than 200 pages.

Honestly, I only picked this up because the blurb mentioned the main character volunteering at a high kill animal shelter,
What are they then, this horde, these women, if they are not the fawning lovers of their god? Who are they, free of the conditions they have accepted like layers of chains?
Wake now, beauties. Rise and look around. Shake off the chains. Give up the ghost of love.

Wow, wow what a weird, honest and beautiful book. I wish I could've read it as a teenager. It's been a few days since I've finished it, and it's still on my mind. I loved this bit from the author's note: I don't write books to teach
Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)
Whoa this book's good! Well worth a read. Odd. Fascinating. Truthful in what society expects from girls, but never what girls actually feel.

Stay for the author's note. It shot my rating up by half a star.

Good stuff. 4/5
Ashley Blake
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
No one writes about the visceral, terrifying, gory experience of being a girl like Elana K. Arnold. Gorgeous language, vividly imagined stories within the main story, heartbreaking reality of what it means to grow up as a girl. So good and necessary.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This might sound offensive, but in this life, I do believe that not all parents should be a ‘parents’ in the first place. They can have as many kids as they want, they might also have the privilege to support their kids financially, but they just aren’t capable of being ‘the one parent’, the parents that every kid deserves to have. When she was 14 years-old, she remembered her mother told her that there’s no such thing as unconditional love.

“I could sto
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
***WARNING many sick, dead and abused animals. MC works in a high kill shelter***

I hate hate hate books that include abused or dead animals. Maim or kill all the humans in any way possible but don’t hurt the animals. Minus one star for animal abuse.

Nina defines herself by her ability to please her boyfriend Seth and his love for her. Perhaps because at age fourteen, her mother told her unconditional love doesn’t exist and she could stop loving Nina at any moment. Perhaps because of her parents l
Second read. Brilliant and important. Don't miss the author's note. ...more
Deacon Tom F
I didn't enjoy this book. I can't celebrate the use of women both physically and mentally. Parents beware. ...more
Debi G.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
What Girls Are Made of is realistic fiction that is both poetic and blunt, vulnerable and guarded. It may not be an enjoyable read, yet it is riveting.

I am filled with admiration for the author and her ability to represent adolescence and incorporate gritty, personal details of ordinary, physical life using neither clinical terminology nor slang. Certainly, readers will trust in and feel reassured by representations of unexpected menstrual blood and independently achieved orgasms. Surely, reade
D. George
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first encountered this author's work when I was able to request her children's book "Far From Fair" from Amazon Vine. Which I loved. And when a request went out for reviewers for her new book, I jumped on it, not even knowing what this title was about, or that it was for older audiences.

I was grabbed by the descriptions in the first paragraph of this book, and saw the narrator, Nina, and her mother, in the simple but important dance that all women do: fold sheets.

And then I could not put the
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What Girls Are Made Of was not easy to read, but I am so glad that I did. It centers on Nina, a teenage girl in an unhealthy relationship, whose skewed view of love was handed down from her inattentive mother. Nina is grappling with her burgeoning sexuality and womanhood while putting in community service hours for a terrible act she committed to a classmate. She moves through life like a puppy or a paper doll, waiting for someone to tell her that she is pretty, that she is loved, that she matte ...more
So I've been thinking about this book for a while now and I still can't untangle my emotions I felt while reading this book. But I do have few things in mind that I need to say. While I liked how author was bold and wrote in detail about periods, abortion etc etc, I think somewhere she went into too much detail that really made me uncomfortable. Like there was scene where (view spoiler). But I no l ...more
Kristina Hunter
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Grotesquely beautiful.

This is not a book for everyone. Especially the pro-life/religious sect. It is raw and honest and downright depressing at times. Kind of like the life of a teenager.

I liked What Girls Are Made Of for the same reason I didn't: It brought back some turbulent memories. Would I have appreciated reading it 20 years ago when I was around the same age as Nina? I don't know. I don't know if I could have appreciated its wisdom back then. Then again, it may have saved me from some p
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. Incredible. Full body chills. 6 stars. The most important book I have read in a long, long time.

Update, 2.5 years later: After reading this novel for the third time, I just had to write about it. My blog post is called “As a case study of self-compassion and shame resilience, Elana K. Arnold’s ‘What Girls Are Made Of’ teaches us how to grow.”
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fast read that made me cringe at parts but could be helpful for teens that are kept in the dark about real life stuff. The author’s note is an important addition that should not be skipped!
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ELANA K. ARNOLD writes books for and about children and teens. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis where she has taught Creative Writing and Adolescent Literature. Her most recent YA novel, DAMSEL, is a Printz Honor book, Her 2017 novel, WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her middle grade novel, A BOY

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