Title: The Cute Girl Network
Author: MK Reed, Greg Means, Joe Flood
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: 11/12/2013
Length: 192 pages
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Graphic Novel
Source: ARC from Netgalley
Challenge: Feminist Reads Challenge
Jane works at a skate shop and loves to skateboard. She’s new in town, so when she runs into a cute boy (Jack) at the soup cart on the corner, flirtations result in a fun first date. Once Jane’s new friends realize who she has gone out with, they call in the Cute Girl Network to give her the real dish on this seemingly-great guy. Jane must decide how to navigate her feelings for Jack when she learns all of his faults up front from the girls who came before. Will she stay or will she go?
Of the First Second books I’ve read, this is the first that seems like it’s really meant for an older audience. Not adults, per se, but I would place it in the New Adult category. Jane and Jack both seem to have the kinds of jobs and lifestyles that point to them being in their 20’s and still figuring life out a bit. Both have roommates and very little money to spend on dates, so they have to be creative about spending time together. Who knew that stealing products from old vending machines could be so romantic?
What I liked about this novel is that it is, ultimately, about Jane’s right to make a choice. Her choice is either one of respectfully cutting ties with Jack to find a partner with a little more ambition, or bucking society’s expectations of what the “right guy” for her should look like. Both decisions are valid. The choice isn’t an easy one, considering the evidence presented to Jane via the Cute Girl Network.
I also appreciated that Jane’s book club (her initial connection to the Cute Girl Network) was reading a thinly-veiled version of Twilight and mocking it throughout the entire novel. I can’t help it — I love a good Twilight dig. And I also found Jane’s healthy sexuality to be refreshing. She’s basically adorable and knows what she wants. I’ve met some awesome leading ladies in graphic novels over the years, and Jane has been added to the list.
My only complaint about the The Cute Girl Network is essentially a spoiler for the story. Highlight the following text to read (spoiler alert) —> Jane was awesome, but the Cute Girl Network came off as very shallow and controlling. So while Jane has depth, these characters were painted as the antagonists. That was a little hard for me to negotiate in a book with such a good message.
Final Grade: B+
These graphic novels are always a quick, fun read. I loved Jane’s character and the overall message of the story. This is a good example of feminism not being about building walls around feelings and beating up bad guys. Sometimes it’s about loving your own life and making choices that make you happier in your own situation — regardless of what the rest of the world says you should do (“girls can’t skateboard” or “girls shouldn’t pay on the date,” for example). The Cute Girl Network is required reading for fans of graphic novels and anyone interested in non-traditional forms of femininity and masculinity. I recommend this for a high school or public library, but be aware that there are visual images of sexual encounters.
Did you ever have a romance as awkward as Jane and Jack’s? Date someone your friends didn’t like? Put up with an immature person for far too long? Share your thoughts!