Bass Ackwards and Belly Up

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up Book Poster Image
Girls take a year off for plenty of iffy behavior.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Three of the young women eschew college for a gap year. Kate believes a man she just met holds "the key to who she really was." At a restaurant, Becca shouts that she hates her mom, that her step-mom is a "self-centered bitch," and that her step-father has "no f--king spine" and his kids are "little s--ts." Characters spend a lot of time making sure they're "hot." Kate connects with her adopted sister. Harper's parents make her pay rent for living in their basement while writing her book.


In Greece, Kate is mugged, beaten, and nearly raped (she blacks out, but a passerby calls the police before anything more happens). She is fearful after the traumatic experience.


Sophie replaces Becca's packed underwear with thongs. Kate hopes she and her boyfriend will make "mad, passionate love on the beach." Harper kisses her former high school teacher. Sophie jokes that if her acting career didn't work out, she could consider "porn queen." Kate sleeps with a man she just met in a Paris bar. Sophie's first sexual experience in high school left her "let down and more than a little hollow" so she decides not to have sex again until she is in love. Becca drinks at a party, makes out with a guy, and then loses her virginity to him because she just can't figure out how to say no (despite thinking of her boyfriend the whole time). Harper realizes she is the last virgin in the group and "that's so sad."


Some cursing, including "pissed off," "f--king," "bitch," "ass," "s--t," "asshole," "bulls--t."


Product references are woven throughout the narrative, including food, cosmetics, and fashion brands, bands, TV shows, Ivy League schools, cars, electronics, and magazines. Sophie, especially, believes name-brand clothes and accessories are vital.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The girls drink wine to celebrate and drink at parties. Despite being on an athletic team, Becca gets upset with her parents and says, "Screw training. I need a drink." She gets so drunk she makes out with a stranger, vomits, and hardly remembers what she did the previous night. Becca wishes she drank more at a party so she would be more relaxed having sex for the first time.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book follows three best friends as they "commit the ultimate suburban sin" and forgo college in favor of a gap year. (A fourth friend sticks with higher education, mainly to be on the ski team.) There is a strong emphasis on looks and fashion, with many mentions of high-end brands such as Seven jeans. Product references are ubiquitous; for example, characters don't drink bottled water; they drink Fiji water. One young woman has a one-night stand but this is presented as OK because "for whatever reason, she felt safe" with him. A character confronts her fears after being mugged and beaten.

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What's the story?

Four best friends -- Harper (the writer), Sophie (the actress), Kate (the Harvard-bound perfectionist), and Becca (the shy downhill skier) -- are parting as they head to different colleges. Ashamed to admit she was rejected by the only school she applied to, Harper announces she is skipping freshman year to write a novel. Then Sophie decides to move to L.A. and Kate commits to traveling abroad. Becca, the only friend who decides higher education is still part of her dream, faces her own difficulties with a mean ski coach and cute football player. Documents such as emails, packing lists, and college acceptance letters punctuate the narrative, which jumps amongst the four girls' perspectives.

Is it any good?

Teens who wonder why they're going to college when they have no idea what they want to do with their lives may identify with the characters' desire to travel or try a career first. The book doesn't offer easy success, though, as Harper struggles with her literary aspirations and Sophie waits tables while auditioning for commercials. Girls with their own BFFs will appreciate the foursome's strong bonds, even while miles apart.

However, despite cribbing an obvious page from Ann Brashares' superior The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Bass Ackwards doesn't recreate Sisterhood's magic with its four main characters. That's because Sisterhood's charm stemmed from its relatable characters, while Bass Ackwards expects readers to identify with self-absorbed, gorgeous high school grads who whine because they have to go to Harvard. Sophie is especially grating as she expects worship by all men, including the movie star she's dating after a month in L.A. Their actions often seem contrary to their personalities, and the men in their lives are unusually eager to put up with their shenanigans.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to follow one's dreams. Some teens feel like they are on a conveyor belt, doing what is expected rather than what they really want. Should parents support a year off, or push for college because they know that is beneficial for the future? Did parents want to do something different before they chose the career they are in? Families can also talk about expectations for sexual experiences. Why were two of the young women in the book disappointed by their first time having sex?

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