Say Girlfriend, Say Goodbye: Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

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Love and Other TheoriesLove and Other Theories, Alexis Bass, Harper Teen, 2014

Alexis Bass
HarperTeen

Seventeen year old Aubrey Housing and her friends have a number of theories about love and dating. High school relationships aren’t forever, so why kid yourself? If you keep your distance you can still have fun and avoid the heartache and tears. Your friendships are what truly matter. They don’t have any expectations, they don’t get jealous, and above all else they never use the “g” word. Because when you say “girlfriend” boys say “good-bye.”

So far the theories have worked out for Aubrey. She’s made it through high school without having her heart broken, she has a tight-knit group of friends, and next year she’ll be attending her dream college. Everything is perfect…until Nathan Diggs transfers to Lincoln High. And the theories that made so much sense before, suddenly seem to make everything more complicated.

This may sound like your typical romance. It begins with a rather confident, but naive Aubrey who thinks she has the world figured out — that is until she meets one guy who changes it all. The begin to see each other (casually of course) and Aubrey finds herself drawn to him in a way she’s never experienced with other guys. They have similar interests, they both care about their grades, and they’ll even be attending the same university next year. She feels so drawn to him that she’s even tempted to bend (not break) the rules of the theories a little bit. But this book isn’t about love overcoming the odds and happily ever after. As many of us know there are no universals when it comes to love and relationships. The theories that have proved right before for Aubrey and her friends may end up running everything this time around.

I can guarantee right now that this book won’t be universally adored. Aubrey is a tough character. She’s anti-relationship, she’s judgemental, she has attitude and her group of friends are essentially the mean girls of the school. But while all those characteristics may be unpleasant, they are also what made her an interesting and complex person. Yes, Audrey is often cruel to other people but the motivations behind that attitude is what’s important. The further you get into the book, the more you learn about Aubrey and the more the pieces start falling into place.

Ultimately, Love and Other Theories stands out because of the way it touches on the pressures girls face in high school. If you show too much emotion you’re clingy and pathetic. If you don’t show enough emotion you’re frigid and a bitch. What Aubrey and her friends are trying to do is walk that thin middle ground of being the “cool girls,” girls who like to have fun but don’t expect anything from the boys they have fun with. They’re not the first girls to feel like they had to fit this mold and unfortunately they won’t be the last. I couldn’t help but think of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl while I was reading, as her central character, Amy Dunne, speaks to this phenomenon as well. She refers to “cool girls”  as “hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex [and]above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.” but also remarks that “they’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.” Aubrey and her friends think they’re the ones who are in control but when they do everything possible to be who they think they should be, they end up losing pieces of themselves in the process.

Love and Other Theories is a novel about being honest with yourself about what you want. It’s also about learning to open yourself up to another person, about first love, about getting your heart broken. It’s about the mistakes people make (despite their best intentions) and all the messy aspects of sharing your life with other people – whether romantically or platonically. These can be tough characters to love, but no one thinks that more than Aubrey and her friends themselves.

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