A few weeks ago I came across an article in The Virginian Pilot about a “controversial book” that some parents in the area were attempting to ban from school libraries. The book was A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl and it was written by Tanya Lee Stone in 2006, so its interesting now that it’s being challenged. It was checked out by a high school student in Currituck, NC, and was challenged by the mother of that student. When I read the article I thought I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Since the book’s challenging by the school board, it has been nearly impossible to get this book from any of the local libraries. Want to get kids interesting in reading? Tell them they can’t read a certain book!
Parts of the book are somewhat explicit, but it’s nothing like some of the erotic novels that have gotten really popular lately. The protest from parents may have been the book’s availability in school libraries, and their inability to keep it from their children. Instead of what the title seems to suggest, that girls might be encouraged to get involved with a “bad boy”, it’s more of a cautionary tale for young girls. Written in verse, the book is somewhat poetic, something young female readers will be drawn to. Told through the voices of three girls attending the same high school, each of whom have been involved with the same boy. He is a senior, and although not all of the girls’ ages are given, they seem younger and less experienced as he is. Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva each have their own experience with him, each one negative. These girls are vulnerable, naive, and fall into his prey, each one end up feeling used. Through Josie’s voice this experience is described:
“Now, I have never understood all that he’s my other half soul mate stuff or when people sometimes talk about having an empty space inside or that they’re missing pieces or something. But then he walked over and fit himself right into my puzzle.”
“He says things like ‘You’re so soft, you feel so good,’ lame things that shouldn’t work on anybody but actually work on everybody.”
Josie decides not to have sex with him, and ends up getting dumped. As a young woman scorned, she finds Forever, that famously scandalous book written by Judy Blume, in the library and adds her own note at the end, warning other girls at the school to stay away from him. This book survives for at least four years in this high school library. Josie was the first to write a warning in the back, over the course of his high school career, many other girls at the school share their experiences as well.
At the end of the book there are discussion questions and questions for the author. These probably struck me more than the actual story. These comments and questions put the book into a different context, and will be just as important for young readers to read. The question is, will those who pick up the book read them?? Look beyond the title – this boy is definitely bad, but there is good in this book. The girls help others steer clear of him, but also to trust each other, and to think more carefully before getting involved with boys.