Wednesday, August 15, 2012

review: being friends with boys

Terra Elan McVoy
Simon Pulse
(bought finished copy)
As with every Terra Elan McVoy novel I've read, the front-flap summary for this one is much simpler than the story itself, as well as fairly misleading. Yes, this the story of a girl who is friends with a bunch of boys and falls for one of them, but it doesn't go down quite the way you think and it's also a lot more complex. Really this is about Charlotte, manager to her friends' band (Sad Jackal), as well as the brilliant mind behind their song lyrics, and what happens when the band breaks up, her most solid friendship falters (and then falls apart altogether).

And my feelings are mixed. To be perfectly honest, there were too many characters in this book that I just didn't like. I'm one of those readers that likes to like characters; as a general rule, I don't want to read about someone I can't stand. And though Charlotte, her three sisters (two steps- and one biological who's off at college), and a few of the more center-stage characters (her best friend Trip, for instance, as well as "bad boy" Benji) were plenty likable, there were plenty of other characters (mostly band members) that I just wasn't a fan of. And maybe it's the territory that comes with a boy-dominated novel but there was sometimes a little too much vulgarity for me personally.

But. Despite the issues I had with some of the characters, Being Friends With Boys, just like McVoy's other novels, manages to be so much more complicated than the summary can explain and also sneak in more than a few moments of stark honesty and realism. Because Charlotte has so many relationships (friends, family, crushes) going on throughout the course of the book, there's also plenty of opportunities for those all-too-honest small epiphanies. There's her older sister who's started college and how much Charlotte misses her and doesn't quite know how to deal with the fact that their lives are now so separate. There's there best guy friend who seems to quit their friendship at the same time as he quits the band, and Charlotte not understanding what happened between them. There's also her (ex) female best friend, whose dismissal of Charlotte is a big part of the reason she's a-okay having only male friends. Strands of friendship and family are woven so neatly throughout the music-fueled story. In many ways, Charlotte reminded me of Ruby Oliver, at least in the later books -- she's a girl surrounded by plenty of friends, living what looks from the outside like a very cool life but who is dealing with some very painful relationship issues including broken and struggling friendships.

Of course, there's also a romantic storyline (more than one, really) in this novel, but despite the fact that there's more than one Potential Boyfriend for Charlotte, it's obvious who she should end up with and their storyline is sadly very minor, especially compared to the other storylines.

I liked this book. It's well-written and so full of different types of relationships, which is one of my top favorite things about reading realistic fiction. However, I did have a few fairly large issues with the book's unlikable characters and often dysfunctional relationships. If you're a first-time Terra Elan McVoy reader, I'd start with The Summer of First and Lasts and save this one for later.


  1. Hi, Jordyn - I just re-found your 'moo' card that you gave me at . . . BEA? and am happily revisiting your blogerino. xx

    1. Aw, thank you! Me and my sister LOVED meeting you at ALA.

  2. Jordyn, I just *love* your smart, thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank you for reading, and for reviewing so thoroughly!!

    1. Oh, I'm so glad! Your books are always so full of characters and issues to think about; I love it.