Release date: September 6th 2016
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
This was a book that was on my radar for a while now but I was completely caught off-guard at how much I was sucked into Pen’s life. I wasn’t expecting a light, fluffy read but the more I got into it, the more I could see so many girls I know in Pen. She was a character who was hard to place in a box and I loved that about her.
Pen was a girl who loved to play video games, felt her most comfortable wearing her older brother’s baggy clothes, and was tired of everyone in her life making fun of her or giving her a hard time about not meeting their expectations of her. She wasn’t the girly girl her parents wanted, she wasn’t a pushover like her best friend wanted. Pen was herself and she only wanted people to let her be herself. Her conflict, her growth, came from standing up to people and from having to get the courage to either tell them to back off her or to walk away, even if it meant walking away from a longtime friend.
The supporting cast were a great assortment of characters. They ranged from overprotective and traditional parents, a brother trying to live his own life but also watch out for his little sister, guy friends who could be douche bags one minute and had your back the next, a girl caught up in a mess with one of those guys, and a girl who was exactly Pen’s type and seemed to possibly like her back. It was Pen’s story but there were a lot of characters who had their own smaller arcs within her overall story. My favourite relationships ended up being between Pen and her brother Johnny, and the more subtle one of Pen and her friend Tristan that was sadly didn’t get to see too much of(I would totally read a Tristan companion story).
I think Pen is an important voice. She was someone who knew who she was and was comfortable with it but had to deal with everyone else trying to shove her into a label that she just didn’t want. She wanted to be Pen, she was happy being Pen, and why should she change to make other people happy.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.