- What’s A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
Rating: * * * * *
Series: The Spinster Club #3
Publication Date: August 2016
Goodreads Synopsis: HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…
The Spinster Club series is one of my very favourites. We had Evie and Amber’s stories – now it’s the turn of their friend and aspiring Prime Minister Lottie, and her story is just as un-put-down-able and heart-warming as the other two were.
Feminism is a very important and very popular discussion point in YA fiction – there is a Twitter chat with the hashtag #FeminisminYA every Tuesday – and feminism is at the very heart of ‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’. The novel tells the story of Lottie’s campaign to be an active feminist and to fight sexism by pointing out every case of sexism she notices – whether it’s in a store with the unfair cost of razors or ibuprofen for period pain or it’s in a restaurant with the waiter automatically handing over the bill to the man – for a month. Holly Bourne explores the consequences Lottie faces during her campaign, from taunts from boys at school who view her as ‘man-hating’ to being a source of irritation to insulted teachers when she points out sexism in their lessons. Lottie must overcome the difficulties, disappointments and costs associated with fighting boldly for a cause that not everyone agrees with or understands. At times over the novel’s course, Lottie really struggles to continue with her project. These sections are very moving and the reader is completely behind Lottie, urging her on all the way and feeling very proud and full of admiration whenever she pulls through a particularly difficult stage.
One of my favourite things about each of the books in this series has been the way that Holly Bourne is able to blend humour with poignancy and sensitivity. As I’ve mentioned, there are numerous very difficult and emotional time periods for Lottie in the novel, but there are also very funny sections of the novel – particularly in the dialogue – which will have you laughing at loud and will put a massive smile on your face. I’m especially thinking here of Lottie’s ‘banter’ with her cameraman Will.
I also really enjoyed and appreciated the fact that Lottie’s parents play an active role in this novel (as parents have in all the books in this trilogy in fact). This is different to many YA novels – particularly genres like fantasy and dystopia – in which the main characters are orphans or alternatively they have conveniently constantly-absent parents, so we fail to see the relationship between young adults and their parents/guardians , a relationship at the very centre of teenagers’ lives. Lottie’s parents are not particularly interested at the beginning in her feminist vlog – they worry it will affect her Cambridge application and her A-level grades – nor indeed is her mum happy when Lottie points out that the allotment of household chores in their house is sexist and her mum does everything while her dad relaxes after work. Lottie’s feminist campaign affects every sector of her life – both her school life and her home life.
I love the friendship between the three main characters in this series – Lottie, Evie and Amber – and the fact that, while all three characters have romantic relationships, their friendship is what is central to the series and what matters most to them. All these things that are sometimes overlooked in YA – parental relationships and friendships are often side-lined in favour of crushes and romances – are at the forefront of this series and it is fantastic to see them taking the focus, not least because partners come and go but parents and best friends are constant. In this novel, we see the first major upset in the three Spinsters’ friendship and I thought this was very realistic and relatable.
And that leads me to another major point about this series – these are three of the most relatable books I have ever read. I can identify with so much in these novels – whether it’s a situation one of the main characters is in or whether it’s a thought, emotion or worry that they have. I see myself in them, and there is something very comforting about that – about knowing through an author’s writing that others feel the same as you and have the same thoughts. The first scene of the novel, for a start – where Lottie is verbally abused by men for wearing lipstick – is something I think that every girl can relate to. We have all, unfortunately, experienced this in some form. Lottie’s story is all of our stories.
To summarise, ‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’ is a novel that should be on everyone’s shelves. It’s striking, memorable and impactful, the kind of book that stays in your mind long after you’ve turned the final page. It raises countless points about everyday sexism, points that it is crucial that we all recognise, discuss and fight against. Most importantly, this book left me, as I’m sure it will every reader, feeling inspired and empowered to act and to fight for the changes I want to see happen.