Author: Cathleen Daly
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Released: January 4, 2011
Genre: Middle Grade
Izzy and Annie are in eighth grade, and they have a problem: they're way too shy to flirt. So they form a top-secret club, the Flirt Club, to learn and practice techniques of flirting, to get themselves to talk to boys. Soon, after they've both been cast in the school production, they expand to include more members, and the results are fantastic! At each meeting, the girls catalog their successes, and they're surprised and pleased at how quickly they each overcome their shyness - and even get boyfriends! But they also learn that having a real relationship is not only about flirting, and as they have to deal with all of it, they depend on each other to get through the joys and sorrows of middle-school relationships.
I love this book! It's so much fun, and such a real glimpse into the workings of middle-school minds. Told entirely through journal entries and notes passed back and forth between Cisco (Izzy) and Bean (Annie) with an occasional note from the other girls in the group, the story captures the way girls in middle school think and talk, and what they think and talk about. Especially the way girls feel the need to rehash every little thing that happens - why do we do that?
I like that the girls are not the popular girls, but they're not on the bottom rung, and they're not trying to become popular either. They don't like how they can't talk to boys, but they're comfortable with who they are, they're fine with being drama geeks - and they can laugh at themselves for acting like drama geeks! They're self-aware, and I love that. And they're always there for each other, so the ups and downs of their friendship are great to watch.
What I really love is how real the relationships are. The crushes each girl has on the various boys at the beginning of the novel do sound like crushes of girls who think they have no hope of going out with any of those boys at any time, and the way they completely miss when boys take interest in them is also so typical. Then when they start "flirting," the disasters and silliness sound so natural to beginners. When they start really talking to boys, going out and even kissing, again it sounds so real. Each boy is unique, too, which I like - they're not stock characters, even told through the girls' own words to each other.
And then there's the way this book really empowers girls. In every relationship, even when the guys are acting in not-so-likable ways, even when a guy ends up putting pressure on one of them, the way they deal with it shows the girls as strong, self-assured characters. Though they start out shy and unable to look at boys, they show that they're not doormats to be walked all over - they stand up for themselves, and for each other.
This is a fun but thoughtful book, an honest look at how middle-school girls deal with real issues, with boys, friends, social groups, and popularity - or lack thereof!