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Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley
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Don't Call Me Baby

by Gwendolyn Heasley

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Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A cute, quick read with an interesting premise and dynamic characters.

Opening Sentence: Click.

The Review:

Imogene’s mother is more wrapped up in her blog than her daughter’s life. Her blog, Mommylicious, details every embarassing moment of her life as she grows up. Every week, Imogene is forced to review items for the blog and take constant streams of pictures that she would rather avoid. She never seems to be able to work up the courage to talk to her mom about it, and every year she swears it will be different.

Then, her and her best friend (also a daughter of a serious blogger) make a plan. They are making their own blogs, where they’ll explain their side of the story. It’s a quest for justice- they just want to be out of the public eye. This is sure to do the trick. But as their plan goes into action, the things they post are mean – almost more like vengeance. But how else will they get the point across?

This novel had a lot of good things going for it. One of them was the main character, Imogene. Her whole life has been dictated my her mother’s blog – even her name was chosen in an online poll. She’s grown up feeling oppressed and has never really spoken her mind, but in this book she certainly got her point across. I loved watching her develop from a shy and reserved daughter with a streak of rebellion, who wasn’t exactly sure the best way to communicate her message, to a wiser and more mature teenager. I also liked how by the end, she was seeing from other’s points of view – Imogene went through a lot of growth and I enjoyed seeing that process.

As for the romance, that’s something that I felt neutral on. The relationship was definitely fun to watch. The love interest, Dylan, started as Imogene’s all-consuming crush. As she got to know him, she saw sides of him that weren’t as perfect as she’d fantasized about, and she learned about the importance of seeing from other’s points of view. I liked how he encouraged her to be kinder to her mom – after all, her mother had no idea how against Imogene was about being in the public’s eye.

It did seem like a younger relationship, which made sense, as Imogene was a freshman and barely 14. I sometimes felt that her thoughts were more juvenile than her age, but that wasn’t a big problem, as it didn’t happen often. And altogether, I found this book to be a fun novel. It’s a quick read with a unique premise and the characters were fun to watch develop. I think that lovers of middle grade contemporary as well as young adult contemporary will be fans of this novel!

Notable Scene:

She starts trekking back toward the group. I try to keep up, but I trip over a root. I almost fall into the muddy swamp, but I grab onto a strong branch at the very last second.

Sage doesn’t look back, not even when I yelp.

Maybe Sage’s right about not knowing each other. The Sage I knew would’ve called out “root”.

FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Don’t Call Me Baby. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Dec 16, 2015 |
Imogene has been known online as Babylicious since before she was born. Her mother started a mommy blog as soon as she found out she was expecting, and she's chronicled Imogene's life ever since, from potty training to bed-wetting to Imogene's first period. But now Imogene is starting ninth grade, and she longs for privacy. She doesn't feel that she can confront her mother about the invasive aspects of the blog, especially since it's one of their household's primary sources of revenue, but when a school assignment leads to Imogene starting a blog of her own, she hatches a plan to serve her mother a little of her own medicine.

This is a quick read and poses some interesting ideas about the prevalence of the Internet in people's daily lives, but I can't really recommend it. The book's problems start with the cover and title, neither of which serves the actual book well. And then there's the content: clunky dialogue, unrealistic and inconsistent characterization, and a tone and plot better suited to a much younger audience -- more tween than teen. Imogene and her friends are frustratingly immature, "Mommylicious" is a caricature of a mommy blogger, and secondary characters are likewise flat. The ending wraps things up a little too neatly, as well. While I read through it to see how things would turn out for Imogene, I feel it's not successful as a YA novel. ( )
  foggidawn | Jun 24, 2014 |
In an age of expanding technology and the inclination to go public with every single detail of our lives, it's no secret that bloggers and blog followers rule the internet (I mean, hello? Who's writing and reading this right now?). But have we ever stopped to think about how the internet is ruling us?

Don't Call Me Baby raises an issue in social media through the exasperated perspective of the daughter of a prolific mommy blogger. Labeled "Babylicious" since before she was even born, Imogene is fed up with 14 years of her life revolving around her mom's blog. When the opportunity to give her mother a taste of her own medicine arises, she takes it. Her best friend (also a big-time blogger's daughter) becomes her partner-in-crime, and both girls are determined to show their moms what it really feels like to be exposed to the public 24/7.

Imogene is in ninth grade, but not yet in high school, so I would avoid categorizing this book into the Young Adult genre. Its tone and content make it seem very much more Middle Grade, and I guess that's one of the first things that irked me. Imogene seems extremely immature, even though she claims to be all-knowing. She's just a difficult character to like overall: not humorous, not humble, not particularly strong, not clever. Since she narrates the story first-person, it was hard for me not to be annoyed by it. There are other elements that make this book seem more likely appropriate for a younger, simpler audience as well, including the linear, predictable storyline, the static schoolgirl crush that attempts to incorporate a flavor of bland "romance," and the exaggeratedly clichéd characters, e.g. the stubborn, loyal best friend, the kind dad, the adorable crush, the awesome teacher... it was like Gwendolyn Heasley took a "Character Clichés in Children's Fiction" checklist and ticked each one off one by one.

Everything is too cut-and-dried, rather than realistic, so I just couldn't get that into the story. I appreciate the contemporary significance and the scattered bits of internet humor—I have to say, how many novels have you read about blogging?—and Heasley's writing style is clear enough, but Don't Call Me Baby failed to really engage or impress me.

Pros: Easy to read // Tackles an underrated but prevalent issue today through the format of a children's novel // Sweet sentiments on family, friends, and identity // Might be popular among middle grade readers

Cons: Not really YA, more middle grade // Mommylicious is ridiculous and over the top // Unrealistic // Imogene is really childish and annoying // Formulaic secondary characters

Verdict: Both a modern parody of the blogging life and a snapshot of one bitter daughter's attempt to get her mother's fickle attention, Don't Call Me Baby is a light middle grade novel that contains amplified teenage angst and some deeper views about relationships and realizing that the world does not revolve just around ourselves. While I did find Imogene to be egocentric and irritating, and the story to be rather unexciting, this is a swift, mindless read that deals with an aspect of the digital age that I do find important. Mostly, though, I cringed at some hyperclichés and the it-all-works-out-in-the-end! attitude; Gwendolyn Heasley's newest novel is too fluffy, too even, too square. It's not a bad read necessarily, but it just didn't awe me, didn't make me bleed.

Rating: 5 out of 10 hearts (3 stars): Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Little Bird Publicity!). ( )
  stephanieloves | May 7, 2014 |
I don't normally read YA books, but when I received a pitch for Gwendolyn Heasley's Don't Call Me Baby, a novel about a teen whose mom writes a mommy blog, I was intrigued. Though I am a book blogger and my sons are now grown, my curiosity was peaked.

Imogene's mom Meg started writing a blog about being a mom when she became pregnant with Imogene over fifteen years ago. The blog, Mommylicious, has become pretty popular, and Meg is inundated with companies sending her products- food, clothing, housewares, even sending the family on paid vacations- in exchange for reviews on their products on the blog.

On one of the first pages, we read one of Mommylicious' posts, complete with links to previous posts that read 'click here'. As a blogger, that made me laugh a little with recognition. The book begins with Imogene's first day of 8th grade as she dreads her mother taking the annual 'before' picture of Imogene in bed before she rises and the 'after' picture of her dressed and ready for school.

As a child, Imogene sort of enjoyed the freebies and people recognizing her at the mall. But now that she is fifteen, she finds her mother's blog too intrusive. I mean, how many teenager girls want their experience with their first periods as the subject of a blog post?

Imogene's best friend Sage has the same problem. Her mom writes a blog about leading a vegan lifestyle, so Sage is forced to eat vegan, which she is no longer wishes to do. Both girls are tired of the teasing at school, and when their English teacher assigns the class a year-long project of writing a personal blog, the girls see a chance to put the shoe on the other foot and write about their mothers.

The moms are not happy with this. Their blogs are their livelihood, and though they don't make a lot of money from them (they are not quite the Pioneer Woman), they see the girls' blogs as a threat to them. Imogene posts embarrassing photos of her mother and Sage writes about her forays at the mall, eating her way through the food court junk food.

Imogene's grandmother, Hope a former LPGA golfer, and Imogene's father don't have any influence over Meg, so Imogene and Meg seem to be at loggerheads. (I loved Hope!)

Although this book is aimed at teens, I think there is a lot here for parents. My sons were too young for me to post photos and updates of their daily life on Facebook, but it does give me pause to wonder if they were growing up today, would I invade their privacy that way?

It's different posting baby pictures, but when kids are old enough to have friends and their own life, how much information is too much to share? In these days of invasive social media, this book gives you something to ponder.

The characters are interesting, although I have to say I found Meg a little clueless and single-minded. How could she not see that she was embarrassing her daughter? Even when we found out why she started the blog, I still found her actions heavy-handed. Imogene was more understanding than I would have been.

I think teen girls will identify with Imogene, with her desire to be her own person and not have her mother always talking about her, in her business, albeit in her case it's on social media.

The lesson in the novel is that communication is key. Parents and children have to be able to talk to each other about what is important to them, and listen and be listened to. I know it gave me something to think about. ( )
  bookchickdi | Apr 29, 2014 |
Imogen has had it. She is 15, starting high school, and she would love to have a normal family life. Instead, every moment of her existence is photographed and chronicled by her mother, a famous mommy blogger.

Instead of living a normal private life, Imogen is Baby and she has been on display since before she was born. But she has her best friend, whose mother also is a well-known blogger, and they have an English class in which student blogs are assigned. It's time, Imogen decides, to get her life back.

Gwen Heasley's Don't Call Me Baby starts off as a humorous, breezy story in which daughters square off against moms. She's got the online persona down. She's got the reader right there with their daughters.

And then the author does something even better. She goes for higher stakes than the two teens getting their moms to pay attention to them.

Heasley also weaves into her story how a big blogging commitment affects a family, how a blog can be a hungry monster that must be continually fed and a brand consistently maintained if a blogger is to create an online presence. She shows both sides of what it means as young people come of age in a digital age during which their baby pictures and other embarrassing moments of their lives are stored forever on some server. ( )
  Perednia | Apr 21, 2014 |
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