Girl Mans up

Girl Mans up

Book - 2016 | First Canadian edition
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Pen, who looks and acts like a boy, just wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been, but the people in her life have a problem with it? Old-world parents, faltering friendships, and strong feelings toward other girls lead Pen to see that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
Publisher: Toronto, Ontario : HarperCollinsPublishers, [2016]
Edition: First Canadian edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781443447041
Branch Call Number: YA Girar
Characteristics: 373 pages


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Barrie_Teen_Lists Mar 24, 2021


Girl Mans Up is young adult, coming of age story about a 16 year old girl named Pen who struggles with others’ expectations of who she needs to be. Ever since Pen was old enough to make her own decisions about her appearance, she has always hated the idea of “girly” things. She began stealing her brother’s clothes, only hanging out with boys, and dedicating most of her time to video games. Since her parents have very traditional Portuguese backgrounds, they have never approved of the ways Pen chooses to express herself, constantly reminding her of what a lady is supposed to be. Fortunately for Pen, her older brother Johnny has always been protective of her, often taking the blow whenever their mother starts an argument.

Pen is happy with the way she dresses, but it makes most people confused. Some suggested that maybe she’s transgender, saying that she must dress and act like a boy because she wants to be one. For Pen, it just isn’t that deep, why can’t everyone just accept her how she is and move on? But once she finally decided to cut her hair, that was the last straw. It started arguments with both her family and friends, forcing Pen to distance herself from them. Now Pen must figure out what kind of people she really wants to be associated with, and who’s really going to accept who she is.

This book is amazing for numerous reasons, one of them being the messages it gives teenagers who struggle with who they are and who they want to be. It lets them know that it’s okay to not conform to the typical stereotypes that are constantly being pushed onto them by society. Another message that will really resound with the readers is that if the people you surround yourself with aren’t supportive of the ways you choose to express yourself, it’s okay to distance yourself from them, even if that includes family. Overall, this book is a great read that I would highly recommend to anyone.

Apr 02, 2020

The main reason I took off stars is there's a lot of misogyny and "not like other girls" going on. I think Pen goes through a decent amount of character growth and leaves that behind in the end, but I rate based on how much I enjoy books, and the beginning just wasn't very enjoyable because of that.

I'd also like to clarify this is NOT about a transgender boy. Pen states multiple times that she's a girl, and has never said she isn't, that she doesn't want to be a boy, and even specifically that she isn't transgender (although that explanation does rely on the idea you have to have dysphoria or be uncomfortable with your body to be trans). I've seen some reviewers call her genderqueer, and that could be accurate. It's not a term the book itself uses, and I think butch is likely what it was going for, but there's enough overlap that if you're genderqueer and need more characters to identify with, you might like Pen.

It's a good book that kept me interested, and the side characters all felt very real. From the love interest, the new female friend, Pen's brother, her parents, they all felt like real people. The parents especially. I'm white, but I grew up in an extremely religious household that had a similar bad attitude about respect only being for the adults, while the children can be disrespected and hurt without any consequences. I'm not saying that's like,, The Portuguese Experience, and I don't think the book does either, but it does do a good job of representing conservative parents more concerned with what the rest of the family will think than actually loving their children.

If that beginning attitude Pen has about other girls being lame and shallow and stupid isn't going to affect you as much, you'll probably like the book better than I did. And she did grow out of that attitude, and grew up as a person into a pretty cool dude.

Sep 23, 2019

This book gets points for portraying teens behaving like real teens. Whether they are making tough choices, dealing with conflict, interacting with friends/frenemies, or simply doing stupid things and grappling with uncertainty -- it all felt authentically done (as opposed to a lot of what teens do and say in books, despite authors' best efforts). In addition, not everything is neatly tied up in a bow at the end. Pen's parents are kind of awful but I think not atypical of first-generation parents wanting to give the American dream to their children, so though I wanted to sympathize they made it challenging.

STPL_JessH Sep 13, 2019

I LOVED this book. I love that Pen's struggle is with how she is perceived, not who she is. Other people are the problem, not Pen. That is so unlike much of queer experience that involves internalized shame.

Girard makes Pen's struggle with female and queer identity complex. Identity becomes more about integrity than gender which is a thrilling change for lgbtq YA. I also really respect how Girard never invokes a concrete label Pen has to choose. This book feels like the people I know and love, instead of queer YA meant to speak to a mainstream audience. The last line of the book is far too perfect to be spoiled but it is basically a summary and a tribute all in one.

JCLCassandraG Jul 19, 2019

This book is full of good stuff about figuring out sexuality and gender expression, but has its faults. Pen, the protagonist, struggles with something incredibly common for girls regardless of their sexuality--internalized misogyny. All of the ideas Pen has about the girls & women in her life, including herself, come from a kinda hateful lens and it's important that anyone who reads this book can take a step back and see how these thoughts create more room for self-hatred and unhappiness. Things like "(she's cool because) she's not like other girls" are upsetting to hear from someone who is trying to figure out a more expansive definition of what a girl can be! Young queer people have an especially difficult time untangling this stuff, since they are working from a lot of imperfect models, most of which don't even begin to speak to their experience. That said, this book is still one I'd recommend for teens trying to figure out what being themselves looks & feels like.

Nov 29, 2018

I listened to this book as a Downloadable Audio book and I absolutely loved the way the characters were portrayed by the reader. There is so much going on in this book. It is a compelling story of growing up, deciding what's right for yourself and how to treat others, all while dealing with gender labels and all kinds of drama with family and friends. The characters have different approaches to all the issues that come up which could create a great space for discussions. I wanted to listen to this book all the time but also didn't want it to end. This book wins all the things!

VaughanPLMichael Nov 09, 2018

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel.

I appreciated (Read: Loved) the fact that Pen and Blake worked from the beginning and their relationship was earned. They never had that 'miscommunication leads to a falling out in the second act only to be brought back together in the third' crap that has been over used since the second item used it. When there was a problem, they talked it out, and they both respected each other's boundaries. This is how we need to represent relationships.

This book wins all the things. We need more books like this. Please give it a read of you haven't.

Feb 20, 2018

If you want a book that is funny and enjoyable say no more. When I started reading this book I couldn't put it down for a second!

Oct 03, 2017

In M-E Girard’s novel Girl Mans Up , the main character’s, Pen’s, life is displayed in a very outdated point of view. Pen is openly queer, and that is what everyone does not understand, the novel follows her and her problems and how she appropriately faces them. I personally really loved this book. The way that the author writes it makes it relatable to our society nowadays. The harsh treatment that Pen received because she was a part of the LGBTQ + community really opens up readers' eyes as to what they are going through. The story was really well written and helps the reader to understand gender identity better. Personally it was a book with many new terms and phrases that I have not heard before so it also helps educate readers better. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to see the inner douchy-ness of a high school and how the character deals with it. Rating 4/5
- @bookhero of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

A moving novel about the hard life of a queer girl named Pen(elope). Having the difficulties of a normal teenage girl and more, needing to decide who are the right people to hang with and who to avoid. What's wrong and what's right? Her mother wants her to be a princesa but Pen knows that that is not who she is, yet would that make life easier? To be like every other girl? This book really goes into the events that queer girls have to deal with in real life too. It shows that you should be who you are and others should not judge, yet they do. This book also uncovers the other side of the ‘hierarchy’ that is in most schools, that being the more druggy rebellion side of school. It gives you an emotional roller coaster with all the events happening throughout the novel, asking questions like what will happen next? Who's to blame? It is a good read to pass time and I really enjoyed reading it because it goes to show that everyone's different, and that you shouldn't stereotype. 3/5 stars.
- @MyWeekIsBooked of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

This book doesn’t have many action scenes in it and so I didn’t enjoy reading it for the most part. The main character, Pen, learns more about herself as time goes by however at the same time, she runs into many conflicts with her friends and family which will impact who she is and what she does. This leads her to fully understand what it really means to be loyal. As her mother and father push her into being the princess they want their daughter to be, Pen realizes that it doesn’t matter if she gives respect to them or not, she will still be treated the same way, resulting in her disagreements with her parents. This book didn’t have many thrills in it however as I got closer to the end, the scenes got more and more intense because it had more of a shock and suspense to go with it. I would give this book a 2/5.
- @booklover327 of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Aug 03, 2017

Girl Mans Up is one of the best books that I have ever read. The authentic and important story of a butch lesbian is an eye-opener and something that could really open doors to discussion about this topic. Exploration of gender identity is progressively becoming more recognized, and slowly accepted. This book covered the topic in an incredible way, but showing how Pen fights for her rights despite everyone sort of bringing them down. The book deals with topics such as sexual orientation and gender, as well as topics such as breaking away from parental control. I loved the main character, Pen, because of how incredibly tough and passionate she is and the lengths she would go to to defend herself and how her character developed from being in abusive and difficult friendships to transitioning into a group of friends who accepted her and understood her as well as they could. Pen went through so much in this novel and always tried to push through it despite how hard things got, which was inspiring to read. Also, the way Pen doesn’t so much as speak, but acts upon her identity and sexuality was very interesting to read. Additionally, teenagers these days are very immersed in sexuality and drug use. This book showed how and why teenagers think in certain ways and act upon certain things, and I believe some of the events in this book are events that some readers can relate to and sympathize with, which is always a great aspect in a novel, especially a YA novel. I would rate this book a 5/5 stars.
- @AllegroReader of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Girl Mans Up is a great book about Pen, a 16-year old girl, who wants to dress like a boy. She wonders, “why do so many people have an issue with that?” Trying to navigate the world with old school parents who don’t accept her choices, and hanging out with friends in the wrong crowd is bringing her down. She’s surviving, but when she meets Blake, everything changes. In order to get what she wants, Pen has to rearrange her life, no more waiting around. Talking about gender identity and acceptance are two very important things that this book does very well, all the while having a strong storyline. It was an interesting read and I would recommend it for sure.
- @tacoboutbooks of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Girl Mans Up is one of the most raw, real, and refreshing novels of our time. Girard teaches us all some of the most important society lessons to date and provides us with such a diverse book, that one can’t help but finish the book all in one sitting. Pen has spent her entire life getting glances from people, wondering if she is a girl or boy, but Pen just wants to do her own thing. She surprises herself when she breaks away from her childhood friend, Colby, when she is tired of doing what he wants. She takes her life in her hands, takes her sexuality and orientation as well, and sets out to find out what she can be. There is so much to gather from this book because topics are touched upon that normally would be dangerous for an author to write about; so I applaud Girard for taking such a big risk. There is a lot of conflictions that Pen must face, from her parents forcing her to be the good girl she’s not, and Colby talking about loyalty like Pen isn’t a good enough person. But all in all, I have nothing but love for Pen because she is such a strong and independent person. She’s not an influence; but she is a standing example of staying true to yourself. Girl Mans Up is righteous, wins everything, and I have all respeito for Pen.  
- @jewelreader of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

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