Review: I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil
Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She's starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying. So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend Jesse dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it's time to use The Formula for herself. She'll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win Jesse back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game. Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn't all it's cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity and fix everything she's messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?
This was my first Gretchen McNeil book, and I loved it. I got the first chapters to I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl through Epic Reads' First5 (if you're not signed up, get signed up), and by the third day I couldn't stand waiting for any more chapters and finally broke down.
Bea's voice sucked me in immediately. She's smart, quick, and determined. She's more than a little bossy, and fiercely devoted to her friends. She's a strong narrator, and you're eager to go with her on her journey, even when you know she's making some horrible mistakes.
I'd give a quick rundown, but really the blurb says it all. This is a book about a smart girl trying to launch her friends to popularity who feels the need to reinvent herself after her crappy boyfriend dumps her for a mysterious new girl. It's about what happens to a girl when she tries to fabricate quite literally every single aspect of herself.
So, there's a lot of the standard cutesy (and annoying) tropes associated with contemporary YA:
A love triangle
Popular kids who are as dumb as they are mean
Unrealized-unacknowledged love connections
A main female character who has no other female friends
Honestly, it's the last one that makes me the maddest, and ultimately why I couldn't give it 5 stars. In what is otherwise a pretty empowering book, why can't our cool, strong, smart female characters have at least one decent girl friend?
But, ultimately, I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl won me over. It was a fast, fun, silly read for sure. The characters are smart, real, and engaging. Bea is a badass, and even though the main plot line is predicated on her despair (and, really, her wounded pride) at losing her lame, shitty boyfriend, it's all in the effort to draw attention to how sad it is. Think The Duff, but more fun.
I love the way the manic pixie dream girl trope is called out for what it is and ultimately twisted on its head.
Women are not on this planet exclusively to inspire men and make them happy. We have our own dreams and needs, our own shit to get done.
It's more than little cheesy and everything gets wrapped up nice and tight, but it definitely drives home a message of girl power and healthy relationships and all that jazz.
Four 1/2 stars
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 18, 2016