School Library Journal Interview for MotherReader
Children's Literacy Round-Up: July 14

Poetry Friday: A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl: Tanya Lee Stone

For poetry Friday this week, I bring you a review of a novel in verse. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl is only the second verse novel that I've read (after Hugging the Rock). And I have to say that if these two books are at all representative, then I'm completely hooked. I love the combination of a fast-paced, streamlined read with wonderful language selection.

I read Bad Boy in one sitting, and didn't want it to end. I read the end material in the book. I read the discussion questions on the handy bookmark that Tanya provided, and I spent time thinking about them. I thought about my own high school experiences. I wondered if Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva would end up becoming friends. I thought of which of them I personally identified with the most. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl is a verse novel told in the distinct voices of three high school girls. Josie is a freshman, smart and confident but (she assures us) not stuck up. Nicolette is a junior, popular with the boys, in a certain sort of way, but the kind of girl who other girls tend to avoid. Aviva is a senior, a "Criss-Crosser" who has friends in lots of cliques, but manages to maintain her own individuality. One after another, each of these three girls, very different on the surface, falls for the same unnamed boy, a popular senior jock. Their experiences with him vary, but have commonalities, too. I think that any adult reader of this book will find occasion to wince here and there, as certain incidents or feelings ring true.

This book is a very frank look at high school politics and relationships. Although it's not a difficult read, I wouldn't recommend it for most middle schoolers, because it is very open concerning teen sex. That said, I do highly recommend it for high schoolers, especially girls. The "bad boy" of the title is good for the girls in the story in part by making them wiser. If readers can gain a little of that wisdom from this book, without having to experience everything that Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva experience, so much the better. I also like the way the characters in this book learn from the one in Judy Blume's Forever, and use the end pages of a copy of Forever to record a manual for other girls:

"some little book where a girl could look up
what to do
what not to do
and who not to do it with"

I read this book quickly, to find out what would happen next, but the verse kept catching me up, and slowing me down. I would stop and shake my head at the aptness of a phrase, or the clever way that the author uses verse to speed up, or slow down, or convey mood. Here's an example:

"How can a person,
any person,
even just a friend,
turn off,

I love the "just, like, that". The very words snap with finality. Another nice thing about the verse form is that it takes us right inside the minds of Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva in a way that a narrative form might not. It seems particularly fitting for this topic, because first love and heartbreak are exactly the kinds of things that teenage girls do write poems about. 

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl is well-written, and almost painfully true to life. It deals with teenage love, sex, and friendship, as well as disillusionment, heartbreak, and joy. Throughout this emotional roller-coaster, the author maintains a tone of gentle humor and sympathy. I look forward to Tanya Lee Stone's next novel.

Book: A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (Random House)
Original Publication Date: January 2006
Pages: 228
Age Range: 14 and up
Source of Book: Tanya Lee Stone was kind enough to send me a review copy of this book, after running across my Cool Girls list. 

It seems to be a quiet week for Poetry Friday entries, or maybe I'm just checking earlier than usual. But here are a few links to other entries:

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.