By Taylor Blasko
I never thought a graphic novel that I read for Young Adult Literature class would stick with me and be so constantly relevant to my life. Every. single. day. of my life. Okay, that sounds drastic, but we read it in class a solid month ago probably and have moved on to many other books since then but I still keep thinking about it. Honestly, it was that good. Not even that it was good, it was actually bad. It was so good, so bad, however you want to look at it, that it hurt me. Hurt my soul.
For the young readers reading it, it’s valuable, for the older readers reading it, it hurts, as I pointed out. What do I mean by it hurts? Well it does this thing where it tells the story of my life while simultaneously illustrating why what I thought as a teenager was so problematic.
It’s perfect in that it’s a story of two girls that go to the beach every summer at the same place and develop a friendship. The story is as much about them and their lives as it is about the other people that they observe at the campground where they are staying. The two main characters, Rose and Windy, are close in age but differ by a few years, and are also very different people. This book basically shows that point in adolescents where you start to realize who is and isn’t your type of person. It’s that weird thing that happens when you have a friend that you’ve known forever and are forced to be friends because of family or other circumstance and then one day it clicks that you actually don’t even like this person very much. Or maybe not even that you don’t like them but maybe just that you two are very different people. This has happened to me a few times in life which is one reason that this graphic novel is so relatable.
You’re probably also wondering what I mean when I say that this book tells the story of my life. What I mean by that is that the main character, Rose, has this crush on this kid that is older than her, referred to as “the Dud” in the story. The Dud supposedly gets this girl Jenny pregnant and is a complete douche canoe along the way (if you ask me) and no matter what the Dud does, he’s invincible. At least, he’s invincible in the eyes of Rose.
And so what are we discussing here? Internalized misogyny of course. Little girls, I’m sure a lot of little girls, I know I did, grow up and maybe like these boys, and maybe they like these boys that are older than them (yes, I’m totally referencing my life). And no matter what the boy does it’s fine. No matter how clearly he’s a dick or how clearly he screws up, I mean society is just being too hard on him right? But when girls of similar age screw up, as is mentioned in the book by Rose, they automatically have to become super accountable for their actions and it’s all their faults and maybe they shouldn’t have been a whore.
And yet, we can’t even blame Rose in the story. I saw that same thing in myself when I was that age. This older guy I liked was a complete asshole to all of my friends and I just made excuse after excuse for him. And you know what? My friends understood but simultaneously couldn’t understand. It was the unspoken thing where you never talk badly about anybody’s crush but at the same time you try to paint the picture of how mean he was to you without hurting the crushee’s feelings. My friends are saints. They shouldn’t have been. They should have told me straight up whenever I mentioned him that he was an ass. That what he was doing wasn’t excusable. Same goes in Rose’s case. It’s not necessarily her fault that she makes these excuses for the Dud, but at the end of the day it is her fault. Society might push her to believe that men can do no wrong, but it’s just not true. And we need to stop teaching young girls that it is.
And so, for the young adult readers reading this graphic novel, I hope you come away with that message. For the older audience, you should already understand that message and try to live by it. But again, internalized misogyny. While I far too well understand the message I still catch myself falling back into that 14 year old self of mine. And it’s bad. And it’s terrifying. And it’s problematic. And that’s why texts like these need to exist.