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Those GirlsReview - Those Girls
by Lauren Saft
Hachette Audio, 2015
Review by Christian Perring
Oct 13th 2015 (Volume 19, Issue 42)

Parents are likely to be disturbed by this young adult novel of three 16-year-old girls in a private high school in suburban Philadelphia. It's a story of promiscuous sex, binge drinking, routine drug use, lying, cheating, and pain. However, these days it is equally possible to find these themes in shows on the ABC Family Channel. Author Lauren Saft does include a lot of cursing and some descriptions of sexual acts, so probably Those Girls is only appropriate for older teens.  But it is mostly a morality tale, setting out the problems that come with risky behavior and emphasizing the importance of friendship.  It is psychologically sophisticated, showing how the three main characters make assumptions about each other assuming the worst, and missing how they were mostly driven by insecurity and the need to gain approval.

The narration rotates between Alexandra, Mollie and Veronica, who are all juniors. Alex is a virgin and has never had a serious boyfriend, but she is in love with her friend Drew. Mollie is dating a hot jock, a guy called Sam who is very popular with the girls: Mollie just feels lucky that Sam is ready to be with her. Veronica has never had a serious boyfriend, but she has sex with any guy who shows interest in her. Everyone jokes about her being a slut, but she just lets the insults bounce off her.  Veronica causes trouble for both Mollie and Alex, and there's a serious rift in their friendships. But it might be an opportunity for them each to learn important lessons.

The plot moves along quickly. Apart from the various romantic and sexual events, the main plot line is that Alex joins a band, playing keyboard and singing. This means that she is doing something new, with kids from a different school, and she is learning to live her life independently from her old friends.  The scenes of the band's rehearsals and performances are nicely done.

Those Girls is an entertaining book. The characters are not just flawed; they are often downright nasty to each other, but they are capable of change and becoming better people. It is not going to represent everyone's experience of high school, and in the opening of the book Saft herself says she was never one of thosegirls. It does give a vivid picture of a certain kind of high school life that is somewhat believable.

The unabridged audiobook is performed by 3 different readers, Analysa Gregory, Casey Holloway, and Amy Talmadge. The recording is good, and the performances are full of energy and emotion.  Unfortunately, though, the three performers sound very similar to each other, so the whole point of having 3 of them is mostly lost.

 

© 2015 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York

 


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