Charlotte has a good group of friends. The thing is, they’re all dudes. She’s considered one of the guys, and she’s fine with it: she’s the person who keeps the group together, who offers advice on the opposite sex, and who writes the lyrics for the boys’ band. With a house full of stepsisters and a past full of prickly female friendships, boys seem much easier to deal with. Until they’re not. When a new guy enters Charlotte’s world and complicates things, she finds that the boys start acting differently, sending her orderly world into a tailspin.
Terra Elan McVoy has been making a name for herself in the YA world by creating books featuring smart, flawed female protagonists. This is no different in her latest offering, Being Friends with Boys. In this novel, Charlotte fulfills the smart, flawed heroine part while her cast of boy friends add dimension to the story. While this novel isn’t as strong as some of McVoy’s previous efforts, it’s still a very enjoyable read.
The novel’s strongest elements have to do with the characters and their relation to music. Charlotte comes alive when she begins to sing for the band, and her ability to write lyrics that are relevant, clever, and catchy propel much of the story. The people that she meets as a result of the band, including an all-girl group (who I would have liked to have seen more of) are the most vivid when they are listening to or discussing music.
Another strength is McVoy’s exploration of what it means to be female and have a group of male friends. There is something very unique about being friends with boys, and there are moments where McVoy nails that dynamic, and how wonderful and frustrating it can be. This will appeal to readers who are in similar situations, absolutely.
However, Charlotte wasn’t as strong a character as she could have been. It takes her a very long time to develop, and it isn’t until she starts to sing with the band(s) that she really comes alive. While I feel this may have been intentional on the part of the author, it’s going to alienate some readers who will grow frustrated with the lack of character development. The fact that Charlotte seems to live for the males in her life is also problematic: whether she’s with her friends or with her dad, too much of her action stems from the needs of men.
A tidy conclusion will work for readers looking for light romance. While this book isn’t McVoy’s strongest, it does have a lot of appeal factors working for it: male-female friendships, music-obsessed teenagers, and some romance. McVoy is definitely an author to watch.
Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy. Simon Pulse: 2012. Electronic galley accepted for review via GalleyGrab.