What Girls Are Made Of
What Girls Are Made Of
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Annotation: Sixteen-year-old Nina Faye navigates the difficult world of teenage relationships and dysfunctional family dynamics. Contains Mature Material
Catalog Number: #129399
Format: Library Binding
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Mature Content Mature Content
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 200 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-512-41024-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-512-41024-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016006372
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Arnold's latest reveals how capricious first love d our trust in it n be. Nina, 16, is trying to make sense of the obsession she feels for her first boyfriend. "I know it isn't okay to care this much about a boy. I know it's not feminist, or whatever, to make all my decisions based on what Seth would think," she chastises herself. Besides, she has grown up being told by her mother that all love has limits; it can't just surge forth unbridled. Then, just as Nina and Seth's relationship turns more intimate, he abandons her without explanation. In Nina's grief, she explores the origins of her longing for love, recalling a trip she took with her mother to Italy to study statues of saints, intertwining the saints' suffering with what she views as her own. Nina's honest musings about her vapid relationship with Seth, as well as the relationship of her fickle parents, demonstrate a keen sense of introspection and self-respect. Smart, true, and devastating, this is brutally, necessarily forthcoming about the crags of teen courtship.
Horn Book
Is there "no such thing as unconditional love"? Sixteen-year-old Nina reflects on this conviction through a consuming relationship and breakup, her work at a high-kill animal shelter, and her knowledge about female saints and martyrs. With explicit descriptions of sexuality--and its consequences--and disturbing imagery of tortured women and suffering animals, this is a challenging but unapologetically feminist read.
Publishers Weekly
According to nursery rhymes, girls are supposed to be made of sugar, spice, and everything nice, but Arnold (Infandous) knows that reality isn-t so pretty or simplistic. Her heroine, 16-year-old Nina, is made of body insecurities, few close friends, a willingness to do whatever it takes to keep her boyfriend, and an unsatisfying sex life in which birth control is her left for her to worry about. It-s not that this depiction rings false (would that it did) but that Arnold lays it out so baldly, and at times so oddly. Obsessed with female saints and their violated bodies, Nina writes short stories, interspersed throughout, that are a kind of Catholic magical realism-a saint is martyred for refusing to marry her father, a girl grows vaginas all over her body. Nina also stews over her mother-s claim that no love is unconditional, letting it drive her actions. In the end, Nina takes responsibility for herself, even things she-s not proud of, but while there-s much that-s laudable in Arnold-s novel, particularly her visceral portrait of girls as bodily creatures, too often the messaging feels forced. Ages 13-up. Agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (Apr.)

School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up&12; Nina has had a crush on Seth since fifth grade, but it wasn't until the summer after her 16th birthday that he finally acknowledged her feelings for him. Now, Nina will do whatever is necessary to maintain his affection. She is fully aware that all love comes with conditions; her mother, in particular, has made that very clear. But as the only child of dysfunctional parents, Nina craves the attention that Seth offers. Thoughts of him occupy her every waking hour, so when she unwittingly fails his unexpected test of her loyalty, she finds herself alone and adrift, especially after she makes a startling realization. When even her best friend fails to support her, Nina looks for help and solace in unlikely places, including at a dog shelter. In an afterword, Arnold explains that this story is the result of her anger at and complicity in the rules that society applies to girls. Her overarching theme is the fallacy of believing in unconditional love. The author presents a hopeful conclusion as Nina learns that self-love and fulfillment can be found through helping others. VERDICT Because of its complex symbolism and graphic imagery, this well-written novel is best suited to mature YA readers.&12; Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Pulling back the curtain on the wizard of social expectations, Arnold (Infandous, 2015, etc.) explores the real, knotted, messy, thriving heartbeat of young womanhood. When Nina Faye's mother tells her that there is no such thing as unconditional love, that even a mother's love for a daughter could end at any time, Nina believes her—after all, she has already seen many conditions of love at play: beauty, money, aloofness, sex. Two years later, the white, now-16-year-old not only confirms that these and more are unspoken stipulations of her relationship with her boyfriend, Seth (also white), but also finds they are part of the very fabric of cisgender girlhood that suddenly threatens to smother her. Nina's embroiling first-person prose alternating with what are revealed to be her own short stories lifts and examines the veils that encapsulate all the "shoulds" and "supposed tos" of teenage girlhood to expose bodily function, desire, casual cruelty, sex and masturbation, miscarriage and abortion, and, eventually, self-care. Arnold interweaves myriad landscapes, from the parched affluence of California neighborhoods to the ordered sadness of a high-kill animal shelter where Nina volunteers, from the sculpted terrain of Rome's brutalized virgin martyrs to the imperfect physicality of Nina's own body, into a narrative wholeness that is greater than its parts. Unflinchingly candid, unapologetically girl, and devastatingly vital. (author's note) (Fiction. 13-17)
Voice of Youth Advocates
When she was fourteen years old, Nina’s mother told her that “there is no such thing as unconditional love.” Arnold explores themes of conditional and unconditional love through sixteen-year-old Nina’s self-revealing narrative about her love for Seth. There is raw intimacy in Nina’s unvarnished descriptions of her sexual experiences with Seth; her first pelvic examination; her discovery of sexual pleasure; her experience of an early “medical” abortion; the pain she feels when Seth rejects her for the beautiful Apollonia; and the loss of the friendship of her best friend. She realizes that her unconditional desire for Seth causes her to be a young woman who is dependent upon Seth’s needs and moods. In the high-kill dog shelter where she volunteers, she sees the unconditional love dogs have for their owners, despite being abandoned to die. Her relationship with her mother (who has a history of miscarriages) is explored in memories of their trip to Italy where Nina reflected on martyred female saints and saw the wax sculptures of “flayed” women’s bodies. Entwined with Nina’s narrative are her short stories linking sex and death in which she writes, for example, about the death cycle of a laying hen and about those female saints whose unconditional vows of chastity resulted in death. Arnold uses powerful scenes and vivid imagery to emphasize the vulnerability of the female body but Nina emerges from traumatic experiences as a strong female, secure in her identity. There is probably not another YA book that describes all things “girl” in the brutally honest way Arnold does here. Teen girls should read this book, even if it is not easy.—Hilary Crew.
Word Count: 48,135
Reading Level: 5.8
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.8 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 501100 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: 900L
Guided Reading Level: P

A 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature Finalist When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she'll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of? Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are. "Finally, finally, a book that is fully girl, with all of the gore and grace of growing up female exposed." --Carrie Mesrobian, author of the William C. Morris finalist, Sex & Violence

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