Title: What Girls Are Made Of
Author: Elena K. Arnold
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab TM
Publishing Date: April 1st, 2017
Number of Pages: 208
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
This is not a story of sugar and spice and everything nice.
When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now Nina is sixteen. And she’ll do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she’s worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of?
Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are. She’s been volunteering at a high-kill animal shelter where she realizes that for dogs waiting to be adopted, love comes only to those with youth, symmetry, and quietness. She also ruminates on the strange, dark time her mother took her to Italy to see statues of saints who endured unspeakable torture because of their unquestioning devotion to the divine. Is this what love is?
Trigger Warning: Teenage Pregnancy, Abortion
Before I share my thoughts, I just want to say that I DO really love the cover and the title of this book. They’re more than enough to convince me to grab this one immediately. They made quite a good job on making me be intrigued right from the very first time I saw it. The title and the cover is what really caught me here because some of you guys know that I don’t usually read synopsis.
“As long as there have been women,” Mom told me, “there have been ways to punish them for being women.”
Okay, I don’t know. WHAT DID I JUST READ?
What Girls Are Made Of is a character-driven story and was written on Nina’s point of view.
Nina was a 16 years old teenager who had a boyfriend named Seth and they were sexually active. At the age of fourteen, her mother once told her that “love is conditional” and that at any moment she even could stop loving her. And that’s what Nina knew and believed since then.
It’s the opposite of beautiful, sparks and glitters shinning everywhere book. There’s no holding back in showing the ugliness, the implausibility of the characters.
From the very start, I already felt heavy while reading this book and that’s what I felt until the very end. This book talks about so many sensitive issues. It has quite a lot of sexual contents but this is NOT an erotic one. It talks about sex, abortion, miscarriages, birth control and almost anything concerning sex. What Girls Are Made Of shows us the reality about sex, love, teens and tries to answer questions in between.
The story about Nina, Seth and Apollonia was really bad and upsetting. Nina made something bad a year ago with Apollonia – which apparently, a new Pakistani girl and Seth’s girlfriend at that time. The terrible thing Nina made to Apollonia was the reason Seth became hers then when they were together – in my own interpretation – it was only sex that Seth wants from her. Then one day, something happened then Seth without-words-said broke up with her. Then she just found out and saw in their school that Seth and Apollonia were back together again. Nina got pregnant with Seth’s but Seth completely had no idea about it even until Nina already aborted it.This book makes us question what we always thought true about true love and make us see the painful reality side of it. I also learned so many things about birth control and abortion. I liked those parts because realistically, that’s one of the things many teenagers should be aware of – especially those who are sexually active just like Nina and Seth. But what I’ve learned about abortion can also be made as a “reason” or as an “excuse” by some teenagers to have sex and do abortion because you’ll basically learn many ways of aborting a child in this book. That will make you be aware how easy the procedures really were.
This book also portrays bad parenting. What Nina had become was mostly because of her mom. First, she thought her that love is conditional, that’s why when she fell in love with Seth she took care of the relationship by following the unsaid conditions that was only said by her, and then she told her stories about the Virgin Martyrs and so many things about sex and art and sex and everything in between. Nobody even stood as Nina’s parents. They were just named as parents, that’s all. There wasn’t even a trace of love in their home. I felt really bad for it. Nina grew up like she doesn’t even have parents at all. She lives in a huge house – the one where rich people lives – but her parents were not always around. It was clearly showed on Nina’s character especially the way she thinks how bad parenting can affect a life. This aspect of the book serves as a lesson that clearly shows how parents take huge part on their children’s lives.
This book, indeed, portrays realistic perfectly flawed characters. It also tackles timely situations where some teenagers find their selves in. It also has opinions that somehow a little bit related to religion and – of course, again – sex that the interpretation may vary from reader to reader. Personally, I felt that this book was too much. I just felt bad most of the time because of what I was reading and the ideas I was conceiving. And the story of Nina, no matter how realistic and timely she and her situation was, it was dragging and just seemed like going nowhere. The plot really didn’t please me as a reader.
The very sensitive issue I personally dislike the most in this book was that thing about the Virgin Martyrs and how Nina said that they were actually being aroused by God. That what they were feeling was lust and not the holiness of God. I am wholeheartedly offended and as a Catholic and I see it as very disrespectful. Even though I know that not all people believe in Him, I still really felt so disrespected at that time. It was like she’s saying that those Virgin Martyrs were having sex with God. That was so AWFUL.
I can’t say that I really hate this book but I personally didn’t enjoy this either. I don’t wholly like Nina BUT I like the fact that she was perfectly flawed and shows a very realistic portrayal of teenagers who got bad parenting from their parents. I do not wholly dislike her because I understand that what she had become was just because of her parents and not just because the author wants her to be like that with no apparent reason. This book has many things to say concerning so many sensitive issues that are really timely but not every message this book conveys was suitable for everyone, some were even hard to accept or even comprehend and it just really depends on how the reader will interpret those messages.
I felt really disconnected with this book. And there were so many beliefs or ideas I do not personally agree with which is maybe one of the reasons why I just felt REALLY unattached. And I felt no sense of direction where the story was going. It just feels like the talking about sex and Nina’s mother’s implausible beliefs about love will never end. I can’t find it in me to like this story. It was just okay. It was JUST OKAY for me.
The end wasn’t properly closed and it leaves so many questions in my head. I honestly don’t know if I should feel happy or sad because it already ended. “What girls are made of?” is the very question this book aims to answer. And the answer is actually satisfying enough. That’s the reason why I am giving a 2.5 rating for this book. It was okay. But this is just definitely not for me.