Girls With Guts: Girl Mans Up and Overdrive | Gritty Canadian YA

September 21, 2016 / 1 Comment / Mini-Reviews, Review


Hi all, I’m back from Asia! I know I promised more reviews than I managed to post – the vacation totally sapped all my reading and blogging time. To make up for it, today I have two mini-reviews of two gritty Canadian YA contemporaries – both are contemporaries, and both deal with kick-arse girls – girls with guts who take on some really hardcore situations. Hope you enjoy, and I promise I will have more reviews and a recap of my awesome vacation soon!

Girls With Guts: Girl Mans Up and Overdrive | Gritty Canadian YAGirl Mans Up

Author: M-E Girard
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Publication date: September 6th 2016
Source: ARC from publisher (thank you!)
My rating:
Buy It: | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

Pen is used to catching hell for looking and acting like a boy—especially from her parents—but in the Canadian suburbs where she lives, there’s nowhere to escape to. No Greenwich Village. No Castro. No LGBT club at school. No one to talk to, either. Her pal Colby, from two doors down, gave Pen respect from the first time he met her playing hockey when they were small, but Colby has become conflicted about Pen’s value to him, and he’s really nasty. Lucky for Pen—she’s met Blake—also a gamer, and a girl who Pen says “wins everything.” Can Pen manage to respect Colby’s “loyalty code” even though his jealousy of her has become cruel and toxic? Pen has to man up and figure it out.

I was really excited to read Girl Mans Up by M.E. Girard because I’ve never read a novel with a gender-fluid character. I was fortunate enough to meet the author at an event at Harper Collins Canada a few weeks ago, and she’d given me the scoop: Pen is a girl who has no interest in being a boy. She happens to dress “masculine” and likes girls, but she’s not transgender. She’s okay in her body. It’s the people around her, including her parents and some of her friends, who are constantly putting the pressure on for Pen to “define” herself as a girl or boy.

What’s interesting about this character is that she IS that okay with herself. There isn’t that much self-consciousness about her body, or about what she likes. Instead of feeling ashamed of who she is, right from the beginning, Pen owns her identity, her look, and her likes and dislikes. Her voice is distinctive, authentic, and unique in YA and M.E. Girard nails it. That’s the best part of this book. The synopsis doesn’t do justice to just how realistic it all feels – as a girl from an immigrant family who grew up in a community kind of like Pen’s, I really understood her. While I never felt as gender-fluid as Pen might feel, I did have parents who had definite ideas of what a “girl” and a “boy” should look and act like.  

While the book itself slowed down about two-thirds of the way through (it was long for a YA book), the characters sing, from Pen’s brother and family to her newfound crush and friends. It’s a strong debut, and I’ll definitely be looking for Girard’s next novel. 

Girls With Guts: Girl Mans Up and Overdrive | Gritty Canadian YAOverdrive

Author: Dawn Ius
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Tumblr
Publication date: September 13th 2016
Source: ARC from publisher (thank you!)
My rating:
Buy It: | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

Gone in Sixty Seconds meets Heist Society in this edgy novel about a crack team of teenage criminals on a mission to learn to trust, build a life, and steal a wish list of exotic cars.
Jules Parish has screwed up.
After three years of boosting cars, she got caught. She’s too good to get caught, but she let her (ex)-boyfriend talk her into a questionable job. And now she and her little sister, Emma, will be kicked out of their foster home, left to survive on the unforgiving streets of Las Vegas alone.
Eccentric, wealthy Roger Montgomery wants to open up his mansion to Jules and Emma. The only catch? Jules must steal seven of the rarest, most valuable muscle cars in the world…in seven weeks. Even worse, she’s forced to put her trust in three complete strangers to help her do it.
First there’s Chelsea, the gorgeous redhead with a sharp tongue and love for picking locks. Then there’s Mat, who hasn’t met a system he couldn’t hack. And finally there’s the impossibly sexy car thief Nick, whose bad attitude and mysterious past drive Jules crazy.
With nothing in common and everything to lose, can Jules and her amateur crew pull off what could be the biggest car heist in history? Or will things spin out of control faster than a Nevada dust devil?

Just as fast-paced and Gone in 60 Seconds-like as you would expect, Overdrive demands a reader’s attention and won’t let go. The writing is choppy and chaotic, like an action movie, dipping fast and heart-poundingly close to disaster at every other moment. It works really well for this book.

That said, while Overdrive was really enjoyable, I wish we’d gotten a bit more on all of the characters – they felt a bit like stock heist characters to me. There was the brainiac, the hot girl, the love interest, the main character – it was like The Breakfast Club, but without the depth behind it. I wanted more on all of them, especially Jules, than just that. That issue extended to the love scenes, which were tension-filled and sexy but…I feel like I really would have fallen for the romance if I knew the characters more.

The ending was also a little confusing with the plot careening and overlapping – I didn’t really get a clear idea of quite how it resolved. Overall, though, this was a really enjoyable ride that kept me engaged even during my very exciting vacation, and had my heart racing during all the car boosts.

Have you read OVERDRIVE, GIRL MANS UP or any other September releases? What books have you read that feature girls with guts? Are you into gritty contemporaries? Let me know in the comments, I’m eager to catch up with you guys!

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One response to “Girls With Guts: Girl Mans Up and Overdrive | Gritty Canadian YA

  1. Girl Mans Up sounds really interesting! I haven’t heard all that much about it, but from the way you’ve described it, I feel like it’s a story that I could really get hooked by and find very interesting. I, too, have never read a genderfluid character so this would be a first!

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