It’s Grace here today on the last Friday of our first week of spring term. The past few days have largely been spent getting myself together for the last term. I’ve been putting together my research questions for my singular class, settling into my role as Vice President of the student body, starting music lessons, and attempting to pitch an independent work major to the school. Lots of meetings and not enough sunshine, but everyone already feels the easygoing, classic vibe of our favorite time of year here.
While I’m not yet quite as much outside as I would like, I did spend most of last week lounging beachside and binging beach reads. I’ve gone ahead and put together my reviews from spring break, along with mood boards to accompany them.
I consider myself very lucky to have been able to catch up on so many reads that were on my list.
Novel: Frat Girl by Kiley Roache | Goodreads
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Sometimes the F-word can have more than one meaning….
For Cassandra Davis, the F-word is fraternity—specifically Delta Tau Chi, a house on probation and on the verge of being banned from campus. Accused of offensive, sexist behavior, they have one year to clean up their act. For the DTC brothers, the F-word is feminist—the type of person who writes articles in the school paper about why they should lose their home.
With one shot at a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, Cassie pitches a research project: to pledge Delta Tau Chi and provide proof of their misogynistic behavior. They’re frat boys. She knows exactly what to expect once she gets there. Exposing them should be a piece of cake.
But the boys of Delta Tau Chi have their own agenda, and fellow pledge Jordan Louis is certainly more than the tank top wearing “bro” Cassie expected to find. With her heart and her future tangled in the web of her own making, Cassie is forced to realize that the F-word might not be as simple as she thought after all.
The atmosphere of the book is a fun one because it’s pretty conversational — in the vein of other successful college-age reads I’ve experienced. It doesn’t fit the “usual” standards of YA, but instead incorporates lots of real elements of modern teenage life like group messages, party habits, the balance between societal issues and characters’ own lives. To put it lightly, the type of “relatable” content you see in memes as opposed to YA books. I appreciated the breath of fresh air. The images that jump out at me the most involve a hardworking, studious girl; her (sometimes excessive) alcohol consumption to keep up with the boys; the atmosphere of the artsy crowd; and the all-American type of classic fraternity culture that formed the backbone of the book’s conversation.
My review of Frat Girl covers a few different aspects of the book: the discussion it provokes, the negatives that I hated, and the positives that made it (ultimately) redeeming and worthwhile in my eyes.
Frat Girl discusses an interesting topic because it’s one that’s enormously contentious in modern culture: the role of Greek life, particularly in relation to big issues like racism and sexual assault.
As a disclaimer, I’m part of the Greek system. I love my sorority, but I do recognize flaws in the way that fraternity and sorority life operates within the bigger picture. I think most of the “get rid of the Greeks” philosophies ignore the nuances of it, and I wouldn’t advocate to get rid of it. But I’m willing to explore the line that Frat Girl considers: how much of our problems are from the system, and how many are from deeper cultural and social issues? Within the first few chapters, I was enormously frustrated with how shortsighted and judgmental that Cassie, the main character, was and nearly considered putting the book down; however, I found the premise intriguing enough to continue.
I was much happier with it once the diversity within the Greek system was fleshed out, how people are not defined exclusively by their organization. The main character, Cassie, was super aggressive at first; she got better as the book went on. While perhaps the Greek arc is mean to show character development, I was not a fan with some elements of how it was presented. At some points, it seemed cliché, but in others, it was spot-on. Also, she was so bitchy about sorority girls and really mean, despite calling herself a feminist. Every fraternity and sorority was painted as exactly the same.
At some points, Frat Girl felt like it was trying too hard to be funny but some elements had me laughing. Some of these included practicing shotgunning at 5 A.M. with sparkling water to practice for pledgeship (or playing water pong), or Cassie’s snappy email to the fraternity offering to teach them a sex-ed lesson from a girl’s perspective, answering questions that boys had. Those elements shone.
Also, I loved the truth of her discussion of parts of college like FOMO, like balancing friends from home and friends at school, trying to keep her academic work from being too overwhelming or worrying about classes. I loved the balance of her noticing that things are bad or problematic, but still enjoying them — and thus being morally conflicted. Roache got the balancing act down perfectly.
As the book went on, it did have many genuine and likable moments. Lines that I underlined because they were spot on about drinking culture or relationships or the strange dizziness of being away from home for the first time or growing up. Also, some of her points about sexual and gendered culture were thoughtful, although I wish they’d been presented differently. In some ways, it reminded me a bit of Winger, which is one of my favorite books.
Pacing-wise, the middle of the book could have had more going on, but some elements worked with the slowness. I loved her slow relationship building with the rest of the fraternity, as well as some of the friendships. The romance was sentimental and a little too sweet for my taste because Jordan, the love interest, didn’t seem to have much personality. But I loved how Roache tackled some of the bits of college relationships vs. high school relationships. Like, I loved Cassie’s hookup regret and confusion, and the figuring out what her own freedom and standards were. The end felt a little too quick and neatly for such messy setup and contradiction, but it was definitely a read that hit its stride later on.
Her rants about feminism and (often intellectual and academic) thoughts were clustered in ways that felt preachy, a few pages I’d find myself skimming over. I think those could have been broken up in significantly better ways; the mini-essays of sorts disrupted the pacing and felt condescending.
Frat Girl is like a social justice version of She’s the Man and Animal House that occasionally felt flat, but had enough breadth to keep me engaged. It’s super hit or miss. So yes, Frat Girl is flawed in a lot of ways. I don’t know if I’d buy it again, but I’d check it out from the library or borrow it just for exposure to some of the perspectives and conversations. And parts of it are giddy and fun.