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No Boyz Allowed

No Boyz Allowed - Ni-Ni Simone Would you pick up a book with a misspelling in the title? Even an intentional one? Usually I wouldn't, but the cover blurb was written in the main character’s voice and it pulled me in at once. It sounded like a real girl talking and a strong-willed, witty girl at that. No Boyz Allowed is a pretty typical high school drama, focused on fitting in, making friends, and dating boys. It's clearly intended for young women of color, starting with a really beautiful poem called "Brown Beauty", but race isn't a big part of the book and I think any teenage girl could relate.

My initial impressions from the cover blurb were mostly right. The characters seemed very real, reminding me of Meg Cabot's character depictions. The cover also made it clear that the characters would use a lot of slang, something I was afraid would ruin the book for me. Fortunately, the author didn't over-do it. Even to someone who'd never heard a lot of the slang used before (me), the characters were comprehensible. This may even have added to the feeling that the characters were real.

Gem, the main character, definitely grows throughout the novel. In particular she has to deal with the anger and trust issues she has because of her mother's drug abuse landing her in the foster system. Her mother did some despicable enough things that this part of the book gets it a solid PG-13 rating from me. The writing is decent. Nothing spectacular, but almost exactly what I would expect from a book written for young adults.

The plot was less impressive. I liked it less than Meg Cabot's work because of the complete focus on boys. In Meg Cabot's books, girls may dream about boys but they clearly have other priorities. In this book, all the girls seem like the less powerful players in their relationships. They follow boys around with very little encouragement. At the same time, Gem is incredibly nervous talking to boys. While I was certainly as nervous as Gem when I was 16, I'd rather have a slightly less realistic but more admirable heroine - someone young adult readers could look up to.

Review first published at Doing Dewey