Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy
Simon Pulse, 361 Pages
US Release Date: May 1, 2012
Challenges: Local Library Challenge, YA Contemporary Challenge, Completely Contemporary Challenge
Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl's perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys' band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free...until it isn't any more.
When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl...and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char...being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
Even your misery was compelling.
No matter how hard I try to get out of the contemporary world of YA literature, I can’t deny that it’s the place I feel most at home in. Every time I read a contemp after a string of Dystopian/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Thriller/whatever, I just get that overwhelming sense of “yes. This is where I belong.”
Being Friends With Boys reinforces that feeling of belonging. Perfectly.
I’ve never read any of Terra’s books before but I can assure you that after this, I definitely will check out her others! Her writing is so genuine and quietly strong, she really knows how to build characters that could walk past me on the street any second. The voices of each character are distinct, and each personality is crystal clear.
Initially, I wanted to read this book because it sounded similar to my own life. I do have girl friends, but growing up, I was definitely ‘one of the guys.’ I hung out with my brother and all his friends (still do) and always had a ton of guy friends. The dynamic is just different, you know? I don’t mean anything bad towards female friends, I love my girls and would be lost without their friendship and willingness to dissect every little glance and touch and not-saying-but-he-said-it-with-his-eyes moment. But guys are different, and sometimes it’s nice to enter into their world.
Being Friends With Boys is pretty spot on regarding how girls are friends with guys. How usually it’s drama free and easier, but one tiny little change and it will make it a mass of complications. My life is nothing like Charlotte's, and none of my guy friends are like the boys in this novel; but I felt like I was seeing my own relationships with guys on the pages. How some just have that deep, underlying understanding that can’t be questioned. How some are so comfortable and close you sometimes have to look away because you see him too clearly. How some are just innately complicated. How some start as more, and then get fuzzy with where it goes. How some friendships are just friendships. How some are better left at friendship. All of those were found in this novel, just as I’ve found them in my own life, and I loved every minute of it.
Also, all these boys? I've never been so in love, so mad, and so emotional towards so many characters at once! I felt just as invested as Charlotte, like it was me going through the fights or listening to music or hashing out songs and lyrics or having his arm slung around my shoulders. It definitely got a bit difficult to track at times, and the opening pages had so many different boy names in them I had to reread it just to figure out the relationships. But each boy is so unique and fun in their own way, making me all angsty towards them. While I had a suspicion from the very beginning how it would all play out, I was kept guessing the finer details until almost the end.
I was pleasantly surprised at the family aspect, too. While not a large part of the novel, I enjoyed that it's a functional, solid family unit of a blended family. So many books portray step-families as evil or misunderstood or terrible, and this was entirely refreshing to see it working. Giving sisters to Charlotte was also a brilliant way to counteract all the boys in her life, and my heart crumbled a bit when Jilly left to go back to college after Thanksgiving Break.
Charlotte is also a really strong character, and I appreciate that Terra let her be an independent girl among all these guys. She wasn't clingy or fussy or slutty or trampy towards them; she just was. She knew who she was; she just wasn't sure who she was with each of the guys. She's pretty fierce all on her own, with the perfect amount of teen indecision and doubt mixed in. With the exception of grades (I can't stand the idea of missing an assignment!), I'm fairly certain I could be Charlotte. Or at least, I hope!
Being Friends With Boys is the perfect contemporary YA novel, with tons of lovable characters, a great story, and fun little twists and surprises. If you want to fall in love and find some great friendships, pick this one up.