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Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman

Babe in Boyland

by Jody Gehrman

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Hilarious. I too want a chance to get into the boy world
  Mimi_styles | May 11, 2014 |
RATING: 3 stars.

I am a sucker for a good gender-bender (my favorite shoujo manga ever, just happens to be Hana-Kimi), so when I read about "Babe in Boyland" I simply had to read it.

Well, it's a fast, light and fun read (I laughed out loud a lot) but it lacks originality as the core story is basically the same as the aforementioned Hana-Kimi. Still it's pretty funny and I liked how Natalie's perceptions change with her experience.

Natalie, a high-school junior who writes a love-advice column for the school paper, gets criticized because her articles are too one-sided.
When she realizes her critics (mainly boys) are right she decides an undercover assignment is needed and enrolls (by dubious means, I must say) in an all-boys intern school called Underwood. She shares a room with a hot guy named Emilio. And well, that's it. It's, like I said, almost the same plot as Hana-Kimi - Mizuki, the manga heroine enrolls because she wants to go to school with her sports idol who happens to go to an all-boys school - but the setting and situations are the same, really.

Except that while Hana-Kimi spans for 23 volumes and develops the romantic story slowly and believably, "Babe in Boyland" proposes to do the same in less than 300 pages, so the two protagonists only have about a week to get to know each other and fall in love. Which is NOT believable especially since Natalie is disguised as a boy.

Most of the characters were walking stereotypes and one of them even gives Natalie a "social tour" of Underwood "a-la-10-Things-I-Hate-About-You".

Overall this was a fun (I'm using this word way too much to describe this book, ahah) read but it lacked depth in the story and character department. Everything happened too fast to be... well, believable. Still, it makes a great read for younger readers and if you liked this book I strongly recommend checking out Hana-Kimi, the japanese manga by Hisaya Nakajo.

( )
  slayra | Sep 21, 2013 |
i loved this book ( )
  Diavoletto | Jun 12, 2013 |
I know I say this every time I review a contemporary novel, but I rarely actively want to read contemporary. I just can't get over this roadblock in my head that says contemporary is either Gossip Girl fluff or slit-your-wrists depressing. This, despite all of the incredible contemporary I've read. Whatever, welcome to my brain. The point is, I rarely wishlist contemporary books, but Babe in Boyland, for whatever reason*, was one I wishlisted. So when Jody emailed me, asking if I'd like to review Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, and also offered up Boyland, I jumped at it. And once again, I was reminded of why I need to take down that roadblock, brick by brick, because I'm missing out on really good contemporary books.

This was funny. Really funny. Like, laugh out loud, snorting and chortling and reading parts over again, funny. Natalie just sparkles on the page, she is so thoroughly likable and engaging. Most readers will be familiar with the story because, lets face it, we've seen it before. This is a pretty common trope, actually**. But there's a reason it cycles back periodically - there's something compelling in it, and something with built in shenanigans, which always makes for a good time - but I think Gehrman puts her own stamp on things quite nicely, and Natalie is so engaging that I don't think I would even care if it was an exact play-by-play of something else. Though the men at school may hate Natalie's alter-ego, Dr. Aphrodite, and may think Natalie is clueless, it's hard not to like Natalie herself as a narrator. She is clueless in the beginning, but adorably so, and she doesn't stay clueless for long.

The friendships are fantastic as well - the interactions and the confronting of stereotypes/cliques, etc., are nicely handled. It's sadly rare to see positive female friendships in books these days - they tend to go either Mean Girl or Cardboard; if they're not flat and boring and easily substituted, they're competitive, combative, snide, and fake. Less friends, more frenemies. It's sad because while, yes, occasionally one girl may have that relationship with another girl - who may or may not be her friend - that's not the standard. (Surprise! Girls can be friends! Anne and Diana aren't faking it!) Natalie has good, tried and true, close friends who she cares about and who care about her, and help her in her ever-increasing shenanigans. (This isn't to say they don't have their ups and downs, because that would also be cardboard; but they don't serve as a shallow plot device, and I appreciate that.) The boys in Boyland start out as stock characters and evolve from there, much as they should in this type of story - they are fleshed out as Natalie realizes how little she knows, and opens her mind to get to know them, allowing the reader to do the same. Basically, character dynamics were a win in Boyland.

And - that's it.
I don't really have negatives, honestly. Some will feel like it's been done, and it has, and if that bothers you as a reader, you should maybe skip this. But as they say, there's nothing new under the sun, and I think most people either won't have come across this trope often enough to be bothered by it, or will like it too much to care.  It reads like it could easily be a movie (partly because its type has been, partly because Gehrman is also a playwright and she put those skills to work).  Babe in Boyland is now another in a longer-by-the-minute list of contemporary books that have done their best to convince me to start reading more contemporary. This super quick read (I devoured it in one sitting) was engaging throughout, and despite any unoriginality in the plot, I don't have any reservations in recommending it.
Also: Emilio Cruz. Win.

*Gender-bending. Gender-bending was the reason. And the cover, because seriously? Gold star, I love it.
** In fact, one such similar work, the 80's movie Just One of the Guys, even centers around the main character doing her cross-dress thang in an effort to win a journalism contest. Which is Natalie's goal. So there's that... ( )
  BookRatMisty | Nov 21, 2012 |
For those of you who read my reviews, this one might feel like a bit of déjà vu.Which is exactly how this book feels to me. Granted, sometimes this premise is done well. But mostly, it’s not.I actually think that this theme could use a reboot, especially in this day and age, with gender roles becoming more and more fluid and undefined. I would love to see one of these characters discover that the old, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” paradigm is a load of crap and that we’re all actually just human beings, more similar than we are different. Why do boys say they’ll call but then don’t? Perhaps because they’re playing into age old stereotypes about how they’re supposed to act, or perhaps they’re just nervous about failing miserably, like we all are. Is it true that boys think about sex every eight seconds? No, that’s not true. They actually think about it every five seconds, just like we all do.So yes, this book does not exactly bring anything new to the table. In fact, while I was reading it I was so strongly reminded of that 1980’s film, “Just One of the Guys” that I made my entire family re-watch it with me in the name of research. On Christmas. It’s a good thing that they love me.It turns out that there really are quite a few similarities. Both main characters are high school journalism students, who cross dress in the name of research and are hoping to win a prize. Both characters infiltrate a new school. Both are popular as girls, but then become losers as boys. Both characters are bullied by the popular guy. Both can’t seem to get their boy persona quite right, until they give in and stuff a sock down their pants. Both have that scene where they run to a boys’ urinal, only to stare at it in dismay. Both must fend off unwanted advances from a girl. Both end up falling for a boy who’s a loser-fringe type guy but also has a perfect physique and a winning personality (because you know, that happens).But I guess that I could have just described many of the large number of movies, television shows, and books that have all capitalized on this idea.I did enjoy Natalie learning to appreciate the “underdogs hiding in plain sight” around her, and her growing respect for the non-superficial characteristics. But then most of that seems nullified when she falls for Emilio, a character who has very little substance at all, and seems mostly defined by his stellar abs and caramel skin. And if anything, Natalie emerges from her little experiment with gender roles even more solidly defined. ”There is a divide, though, between male and female worlds, and those worlds have different rules, different customs, different cultures.” She exults in her freedom from “boyhood”, becoming even “girlier” by wearing pink and glitter and indulging in exaggerated emotional responses. This is a fun, fluffy, cute read but it’s been done before. Many times. If you’re looking for something novel or revolutionary, I would give this one a pass.Perfect Musical PairingMidnight Star – Girl’s Got Something Boys Ain’t GotIf you’re going to flash back to the eighties anyway, might as well just go there! For journalism antics, cross-dressing, and traditional gender roles only slightly challenged, I would actually suggest watching this movie! It has a zany brother! And thirty year olds playing high schoolers! And boobs!Also seen on The Readventurer. ( )
  nematome | Jul 27, 2012 |
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Natalie, a seventeen-year-old former drama club member who now writes a relationship column for her school newspaper, decides to go undercover as a student at an all-boys boarding school so that she can figure out what guys are really like.

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