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Reviewed by:
  • What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Arnold, Elana K. What Girls Are Made Of. Carolrhoda Lab, 2017
200p ISBN 978-1-5124-1024-2 $18.99 R Gr. 10-12

“I could stop loving you at anytime,” Nina’s mother informs a fourteen-year-old Nina. “No one loves without conditions.” Several years later, Nina understand the conditions by which her boyfriend Seth loves her: have plenty of sex, give him space, and, she learns one day, to promise to be willing to die with him. When she can’t fulfill that last one, he breaks up with her, and now she is left pregnant and alone, contemplating the stories of the virginal saints she learned about while on a trip to Italy with her mother years ago and preparing for her abortion. Nina is powerful, messy, and broken, and her voice oscillates between an aloof coolness and anxious neediness; her sex with Seth (and there’s a lot) is often as clinically described as her account of her gynecological exam. Nina’s episodic narration moves between her relationship with Seth and memories of her visit to Italy and the tales of female saints, who, she discovers, are as much revered for their intact maidenhood as they are for their acts of sacrifice. The separate facets of the same Nina—sexual, emotional, thoughtful, lonely—finally begin to integrate into a whole in the hesitantly hopeful ending. Pair this with McGinnis’ The Female of the Species (BCCB 7/16) for a nuanced look at the complications of girlhood. [End Page 351]



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