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Parents' Guide to

September Girls

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Lyrical coming-of-age tale undercut by iffy gender messages.

September Girls Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 1 parent review

age 15+

It upends a lot of romantic tropes

There is a small group of people who have vocally lambasted this book for being "sexist." There is another group of people who find it an amazingly thoughtful critique of the ways that men and women can feel trapped in particular roles and identities. I am in the latter camp. The set up of the book feels like the beginning of an erotic story meant for teenage boys. It very realistically depicts the way some boys talk about and think about girls. The book does NOT indicate that these people are correct to speak about women in this way. In fact, there are frequently indications from the narrator that he is bothered by thinking of women in sexist ways. The Girls of the book are depicted in very stereotypical ways for a very particular reason that becomes clear as the book progresses. The depiction of the girls ends up being a fantastic critique of the messages that mass media and consumer culture send to women, but it seems like some readers don't pick up on that aspect of it, and maybe it is true that younger readers who are not good at picking up on irony and the concept of an unreliable narrator might take too much of the book literally. I am a 40+ year old reader, and strangely enough, I felt like I was the best audience for this book. The book is ultimately a tale about the life changing moments we pass through in life and that is a theme that the average teenager doesn't quite get. I think this story might resonate most with someone who has just come home from a summer camp, or graduated from High School or College. The book very realistically depicts A LOT of talk about sex, drinking, and drug use. I do not consider it too much, it is just a realistic amount for the group of people that the book is depicting. Ultimately, I think it is a mistake to consider this a Young Adult book.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (2 ):

SEPTEMBER GIRLS is beautifully written. Author Bennett Madison is a formidable talent. But the merits of his lyrical language as it matches the rhythm of the sea are dishearteningly undercut by a fairly sexist attitude toward women, bringing to mind Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Older teens should be able to evaluate these issues and come to their own conclusions, but less sexually mature teens might need help with the advanced themes.

Sam's early, immature, sexist attitudes are unfortunately accepted and presented as the norm. This coupled with frequent, pervasive descriptions of women as sexual objects, sirens, and analogous to a school of fish undercut Sam's sexual and intellectual transformation into a thoughtful, caring adult. The climax is somewhat glossed over, diminishing its impact; maybe that's why some of the negatives are what stay with you instead of the positives.

Book Details

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