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WHAT KIND OF GIRL by Alyssa Sheinmel


by Alyssa Sheinmel

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4926-6727-8
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Two friends who’ve been growing apart are drawn back together when one of them comes forward to report that her boyfriend has been hurting her.

In short sections, each divided into three parts, taking place over a timeline that spans just a week, a Northern California high school is rocked by the revelation that Mike, a well-respected, high-achieving student, has given his girlfriend, Maya, a black eye. Extending naturally from this central plot is the nuanced and compelling struggle of Maya’s best friend, Junie, from whom she’s become distanced due to Mike’s isolating behavior. Junie is dealing with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder and copes by cutting. The narrative structure of this effective novel is a clever one, though some may feel that the number of threads that are spun out at the beginning are a bit unwieldy. However, patient readers will be richly rewarded by both the depth of these characters and the compassionate portrayal of the issues they face—which also include bulimia and drug use—and by the way their stories are eventually woven together. Some details are chilling, as when Maya’s classmates suggest that they believe she was hit but think she may be confused about who did it. Realistic diversity is present—Mike and Maya are both white, and she is Jewish; Junie is Mexican American and Ashkenazi Jewish; Junie’s girlfriend, Tess, is black.

A poignant, thought-provoking novel that will resonate deeply.

(Fiction. 14-18)