Like Other Girls

It’s doubtful whether anybody over the age of forty could have written this book as the world it portrays – teenagers who are ‘transitioning’ to become the opposite sex as well as those with serious alcohol problems (and they’re only sixteen) just wouldn’t have figured back in their day. Or if they did, they certainly weren’t talked about as openly as they are in this controversial book.

After her successful first Hot Key YA book Nothing Tastes as Good, Claire Hennessy has again shown she is an author not afraid to sidestep important teenage issues.

Through a first person narrative, we are plunged into Lauren’s sometimes bewildering world where the teenager, who’s only just done her Junior Cert, is already having a full physical relationships with her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to her mother (she’s the remarkably tolerant school headmistress!), Lauren regularly takes to her bed with full bottles of red wine to comfort herself over her callous boyfriend. And she’s confused over her best friend Stephanie who’s transitioning into a boy called Evan but is a victim of transphobic bullying.

The story’s timeline is confusing at times – it might have been easier to just label chapters ‘Before’ and ‘After’ – but Hennessey still manages to successfully build the suspense until Lauren has her inevitable crisis. And while the book’s other characters are a little thinly drawn, it may be because there’s so much packed into this well paced and fascinating story which is part fiction, part social commentary.

Like Other Girls is an important book that shows life for our teenagers is no longer as simple as girl-meets-boy and lives happily ever after. Then again, was it ever?