Book Review: I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl

I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl
By: Gretchen McNeil
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: October 18, 2016
Genre: YA contemporary
352 pages
Source: galley kindly provided by publisher

I am really glad that I was encouraged to pick this book up, because it was an awesome read. The cover and title aren't the type that will usually catch my attention; both seem a little juvenile for the kind of contemporary that I usually prefer. These characters and their story, though, were absolutely well worth my time.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an archetype: the quirky, sunny, interesting girl with whom everyone becomes intrigued. Bea, a classic nerdy math girl, takes on the Manic Pixie Dream persona in a quest to secure a scholarship. No- to get her boyfriend back. No- to get back at the girl she hates. Perhaps all of the above.

This book is an exploration of teen identity expression, and how so many kids settle for a two-dimensional version of themselves that their peers are willing to accept rather than risking being wholly themselves and potentially being socially rejected. It's about how young people who are still figuring out themselves, and who therefore have little experience to use when figuring out others, sometimes jump to the easiest conclusions. It's about how kids take their friends for granted, judge their peers before they know the whole story, and give each other social status for the most ridiculous of reasons.

It's also about discovering love for the first time, appreciating people who risk being their authentic selves, and giving each other enough grace to mess up while growing up, as long as we fess up and fix up.

There were passages that felt very stereotypical of the teens-in-high-school genre, but those passages perfectly matched who the main character was in that moment. The scenes where Bea is being honest with herself about who she is and what she wants are the scenes that feel the most genuine in all of the other aspects as well. The book is exceptionally well-crafted in this regard, and I admire the author's skill in making it so.

I read a lot of fantasy and dystopian, so this book was a refreshing breather from all of that weird stuff. the weirdest thing in this one is Bea's application of mathematics to the social constructs of the typical American high school- and I found that aspect of her character to be really enjoyable.

Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She's starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.

So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically-guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it's time to use The Formula for herself. She'll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win her boyfriend back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.

Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn't all it's cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity, and fix everything she's messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?