My dear bookish friends!
Imagine a Catholic school with strict curfews and even stricter rules, and then imagine a headstrong feminist girl with a purple fauxhawk, biker boots, and very short skirts. Does that go together? Not really… And so, the main character in this hilarious feminist tale wants to try anything and everything to leave the place. (And by that, I mean anything!) The headmaster owes her father something though, and so they keep her… We’ll just have to see for how long – that’s what Alex thinks, and just like that starts a super fun tale of misoginy and sexism, of freedom and feminism, of friendship and love. Read on to find out what else this book is about, and then for my opinion! Before I forget though: Big thanks as always with these amazing ultimate blog tours goes to Dave @ TheWriteReads, and for Penguin and the author for an ecopy in exchange for my honest review!
Hilarious, bold, sparky and surprising, this is the funniest feminist book you’ll read all year.
Alex is a rebel from the tip of her purple fauxhawk to the toes of her biker boots. She’s tried everything she can think of to get expelled from her strict Catholic boarding school. Nothing has worked so far – but now, Alex has a new plan.
Tired of the sexism she sees in every corner of St Mary’s, Alex decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues. Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud.
Alex hates the Catholic boarding school her parents make her attend, and every single person there. So, what to do? The only way to end her misery is for her to get expelled! Not so easy when your father was basically best friends with the headmaster… And so, Alex has to find another way out…
Bad Habits starts off with Alex dangling from a window. No, not an attempt to end her days at the strict school this way – she just has to leave the boys’ dorm before she gets caught! The first pages with Alex, I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy that much. Her voice seemed too cool, too hard, too vulgar at times – as if she was trying too hard to be the tough, cool feminist, and too hard to stand out from the crowd. But then, when I got to know her better – her thoughts, her feelings, what makes her tick – Alex began to grow on me!
I’m not going to lie, but insults and ‘naughty words’ (lol) aren’t part of my everyday vocabulary either, so her frequent use of them put me off for a big part of the book. But as I mentioned above, once I got to know Alex better and could understand her train of thought, I knew why she was the way she was. She just is headstrong, vocal (extremely so!), determined, and just overall a very strong character, and she makes heads turn! However, she is also quite…how to say… narrow-minded at times when it comes to certain things – especially her idea of feminism, freedom, and equality. She just sees her very own, limited kind of reality, and that is the universal truth. Saying she is a flawed character therefore is almost an understatement, but that makes her all the more real. And just like that, we have one very interesting and ‘to-root-for’ main character whose journey we want to be a part of.
I liked how the plot had a simple goal from the beginning: to get Alex out of there – and followed that like a small current until the end. Obviously I won’t reveal what happens in the end, but sometimes I wished for a bit more action plot-wise. However, Alex happened to be so much of a whirlwind that her views, thoughts, and especially words filled the action-department all of their own!
Something I really loved was the pop culture references here and there, it just makes a book so much more ‘real’ when you know the books and movies and songs the characters are talking about! I also loved Alex’s roommate Mary Kate – who is pretty much the exact opposite of her, which underlined the comedy elements in this book even more!
While Alex is trying to get expelled by pushing the school to agree to her production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ (in a school where no one even dares to say the V word!), it was funny and interesting at the same time to see how many different views on what feminism actually is there are. While Alex sees her own version of it as the only real feminism – the sexual liberty and outward rebellious attitude coming complete with the punky short hair and even shorter skirt, the ‘nothing is a taboo’ kind of verbal approach and the rebellion against everyone and everything – it becomes clearer and clearer through the course of the book how harmful this kind of black and white, all or nothing thinking actually is for the other girls and women in her periphery.
There are characters believing in and portraying pretty much the exact opposite of what Alex does and shows – who believe that saving sex for after marriage, not openly showing every body part etc. is their very own kind of choice and way to take agency of their own body – a different, and yet just as strong kind of feminism. I loved the clash between these very contrasting worldviews, and the funny and often also underlying emotional scenes that came with them. Ultimately, it is all about choice – and how this deep topic has been intervowen with this funny plot and great range of characters was really exceptional.
Summing up I have to say that the way feminism was addressed here was really very special and made the topic approachable for younger readers as well (not too young though, mind you!). The plot that promised to serve only as a way to get Alex expelled from school opened up a discourse about some very deep, very important topics, but managed to do so in a fresh and new way. I like that we have a main character that is quite flawed in her beliefs and head-strongness, but then again that is what serves to open up the discourse and helps to make you think. In the end, Alex tries to help other girls, not just herself, to be a free woman in a world that claims to have equality for men and women, but in reality might still be far away from that. It was nice to watch Alex change over the course of the book – slowly, yet gradually. In the end, she wasn’t a changed person. But the spark was there, and sometimes that is all there needs to be.
With its wide range of somplex characters, the fun school setting, the important underlying messages, and the humour, Bad Habits is the perfect contemporary YA read for every 21st century girl. You need this on your shelf!
4 stars from me, and I can’t wait to see what other books Flynn Meaney will write!
Thank you all so much for reading!
P.S. Look at this GORGEOUS cover!!!