A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows blatant and subtle forms of sexual harassment, as well as various responses to such illegal treatment.
Silence never makes things better; find someone you can trust and tell them your fears, secrets, and shame. You deserve to be treated the way you want to be treated. You are in charge of your body; you decide who can and can't touch your body and how. You are more powerful and brave than you think.
Positive Role Models
Scared but resourceful Lydia is a 12-year-old trying to figure out how to feel safe in the world after being sexually harassed in school and at home. She struggles to protect herself, but never stops trying. Lydia's divorced parents are aloof toward Lydia's problems, but they do come around to her aid as they should. Emma, Lydia's resilient 11-year-old cousin, becomes a source of Lydia's strength as they face their problems together. In terms of representation, Lydia and her family are White, Emma is Black-White biracial, and friends appear to be racially diverse.
Violence & Scariness
Repeated scenes of sexual harassment including name-calling, unwanted flirting, peeping, bra-snapping, manspreading, unwanted touch, etc., much of which is dismissed as "not a big deal," by several characters, though they later experience serious consequences. A fair amount of tension and fear generated in scenes where Lydia is alone with her mother's boyfriend.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Middle-school-age girls talk about crushes and express desire for male attention. Opposite-gender adults in a relationship hug and kiss briefly.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Very mild insults, like "idiot" are used sparingly.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Caela Carter's How to Be a Girl in the World follows 12-year-old Lydia, and her 11-year-old cousin, Emma, as they navigate Lydia's mother's too-touchy boyfriend, Jeremey. Lydia has also experienced sexual harassment from boys at her Catholic school. After the adults in her life let her down, Lydia turns to a spell book she finds in the deteriorating old house her mother just bought, hoping that a bit of magic might protect her from being touched in ways that she hates. Though there is no blood or gore, the sexual predations Lydia, in particular, experiences are psychologically violent and can be quite scary, with lots of tension and fear in scenes where Lydia is alone with Jeremy. Other sexual content is mild: Adults hug and kiss, kids talk of crushes. There are some insults, such as "idiot." This is a great pick for starting family discussions around consent and sexual harassment.
Is It Any Good?
This powerful tale of a girl trying to make sense of the world is an urgent and necessary book to keep conversations going in our post-#metoo era. How to Be a Girl in the World's preteen characters are realistic and sympathetic. The various forms of violation described in this story advance the book's central questions: Is any form of unwanted touch acceptable? Who gets to decide? Author Caela Carter trusts her readers' ability to handle nuance and decide for themselves. Carter's writing is well-paced and clear, her characters are interesting, and the resolution is quiet satisfying.
The lack of depth regarding why so many girls in this book seem to accept sexual attention, and, at times, to actively desire it, may bother some readers. This may unintentionally imply that some girls want such attention, since they aren't vocally objecting to it. It's also never quite clear why Lydia doesn't reach out to her family for help sooner. These concerns aside, this is a strong and memorable story, one that can inspire tween readers to stand up for themselves and others when faced with unwanted attention.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Books to Help Your Kid Survive Middle School
Books to Help Kids and Tweens Understand the Importance of Consent
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate