Girl Mans Up

Girard, M-E. Girl Mans Up. New York: HarperTeen, 2016.

A young woman with a white T-shirt, black pants, and short, tousled hair leans against a brick wall with her arms crossed.

Pen is a sixteen-year old girl who eschews girly stuff and would rather dress in guy’s clothes. Growing up in Ontario, a child of Portuguese immigrants, she moves between two worlds—gaming with her dude friends and asking her parents for traditional blessings. It’s been tense with her parents, but when she cuts her long hair off, her parents are more concerned than ever.

Things aren’t great with her friend group, either. Her best friend Colby uses her as a wingman to hook up with girls. He’s been getting more and more controlling and weird, and one day he makes a move on her because she doesn’t have “girl drama.”

Pen has started to make new friends, though—Blake, her classmate, has taken a sudden interest in her. Finally, after years of helping Colby find girls, Pen has a girl interested in her. As she navigates dealing with her traditional parents, Colby’s increasingly strange and cruel behavior, and budding intimacy, Pen persists in “manning up” to be her authentic self.

Girl Mans Up won the 29th annual Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult. I absolutely loved the honest, riveting depiction of a butch teen growing into her identities as a lesbian and as masculine but not male. I recommend this book for all public libraries and other places serving queer youth.

Content note: Brief, non-graphic non-consensual kissing and touching; verbal and physical bullying; brief, non-graphic sexual intimacy.


About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
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