Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno ARC Review

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

Published by: Pan MacMillan on April 7, 2020

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary, Romance

Pages: 304

My Rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…



Don’t be easy. Don’t give it up. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be cold. Don’t put him in the friendzone. Don’t act desperate. Don’t let things go too far. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t blame him for trying. Don’t walk alone at night. But calm down! Don’t worry so much. Smile!

Marin is a smart, driven, popular girl – she’s headed for Brown when she graduates and has a brilliant career as a journalist ahead of her. Especially in the eyes of English teacher Mr Beckett. He spends a lot of time around Marin, and she thinks it’s harmless . . . until he kisses her.  

No one believes Marin when she tells them what happened, so she does the only thing she can: she writes an article called ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ for the school paper to point out the misogyny and sexism that girls face every day. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and rewrite her own rules.


I finished this book in one night, that alone should tell you how promising it is. The writing style itself was engaging and vivacious β€” a pet peeve of mine is when authors write teenagers and the narrative voice sounds like a forty year old woman. Although I’m not the biggest fan of contemporaries and the book is nothing original, Bushnell and Cotugno had me hooked with the fast pacing and flawless way they weaved the narrative. There were so many moments I was left aghast because I couldn’t believe how Marin was being treated, but then I remembered it is a sad reality so many people β€” girls, especially β€” aren’t believed.

I thought there was a strong message in this book, even if the ending was a little underwhelming. I don’t think there was any need for a romantic sub-plot. It felt like it was there for the sake of being there and I prefer romances to be fully developed whilst Marin and Gray were rushed together only to build up to her outburst. Albeit, their meeting was cute and I thought the feminist book club was a nice addition. It opened up conversations around the different types of privilege a female can have and highlighted how imperfect Marin was with her feminist agenda. Marin definitely had more character development to do, but the unfinished nature of her growth made sense in perspective.


Marin is the main character and first person narrator in Rules for Being a Girl. I liked that she had a good head on her shoulders, but was emotionally driven at times because doing what’s right isn’t always easy. I especially valued the healthy familial relationships she had with her parents, sister and grandma. It seems so rare that teenagers involve their parents in their lives, so her telling her parents what her teacher did and the time it took for her to comes to terms with speaking to them was realistic and set a good example.

On the other hand, I felt an emotional disconnect with Marin. Her overriding trait seemed to be anger and it blinded her a lot. She had every right to be angry and she endured something that would undoubtedly change a person, but I wanted to see more layers to her and how she built herself back up rather than letting the incident break her. Marin was fierce and strong, but that was both a strength and a weakness for her.

The other character I want to talk about is Mr Beckett. Mr Beckett is the cool teacher that everyone loves and it was terrifying how easy it was for me to like him. The authors do a phenomenal job at making him likeable and charismatic. Even after I knew about his predatory nature, it was clear why so many students supported him and I hated him in the best possible way. All the subtle warning signs were extremely clever β€” the students called him “Bex” and he referred to Marin as “pal” whilst giving her compliments about how mature she was. I thought it was an excellent depiction of how easy it is to be manipulated by the authority figures we are told to trust. Not all predators are old or ugly or mean, in fact, they’re usually as charming as Bex.


Marin’s article on the ‘Rules for Being a Girl‘ was unbelievable and I found myself agreeing with everything she said. There’s been books with similar plots before, it’s nothing new, but still resonates and serves as a harsh reminder that there’s still a blatant power imbalance between genders and that it can be felt from a young age. Linking into that, my favourite moment had to be when Marin gave advice to her younger sister about her appearance and boys because seeing such a caring, authentic sibling relationship made me happy.


Not one specific moment as such, but I couldn’t get behind Marin’s friendship with Chloe. I can understand why Chloe acted the way she did, but it was not a healthy friendship they had at all. I think it is so important to have more supportive female friendships in fiction, so it was disappointing that such an empowering book lacked that. Instead of Gray swooping in, I wanted more female solidarity.


This book is Love Lessons if it were YA meeting The Nowhere Girls. It was predictable for the most part and was a hit or miss in the portrayal of some relationships β€” the romantic elements and friendships weren’t the best β€” but the themes remain relevant as ever. Rules for Being a Girl is successful at evoking a powerful response from you as a reader and I think younger teens especially could really benefit from giving it a read.

Thank you to Pan MacMillan and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

read it and weep,

3 replies on “Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno ARC Review”

[…] WHY I RELATE IT TO THAT SONG: Taking the very literal meaning of the title, this book involves an illicit student/teacher affair. It’s also a really badass book with feminist themes. I chose the key line from Chloe’s perspective, thinking about how teenagers always think they’re older than they are and can handle very inappropriate, adult situations when they should never have to. You can find my book review of Rules for Being a Girl here. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s