Oct 3, 2013

Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison

Title: September Girls
Author: Bennett Madison
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publishing Date: May 21, 2013
Pages/Format: 352, ARC

When Sam's dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he's all for it-- at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him. 

Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she's different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he's going to get her back, he'll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.

Initial Reaction of Book in One Word: LIKE

I liked this book. I did. I know that there's a lot of talk about it, but to be honest, I think people are kind of harsh on September Girls. I mean, I understand why people don't like it, but I feel like I have to defend it. (I'm not always good at being mean.) Sure, this book is kind of weird, but it's a fast-paced, different take on mermaids that's told from a realisticish male POV. Did I love this book? No. (And I don't mean that in a bad way, if that makes sense.) But I did like it, and I think I did more so than not.

I wouldn't necessarily say I disliked anything about this book; there were just some things I wasn't a fan of, and overall, I didn't fall in love. I think the two issues surrounding this (that I've seen in other reviews, and that I had some issues with myself) are the mermaids and the content. I'll start with the mermaids. First, I wouldn't even go so far as to call them mermaids. They're more like weird girls--the Girls, actually--that come from the water and can't go back unless they break the curse. (Spoiler: To break the curse, you sacrifice the virgin. And by sacrifice I mean sleep with a virgin teenage boy. End Spoiler.) And they are weird. They all look very similar. They're afraid of the water and can't swim. And they can't leave the town they're in; it's all part of the curse. So they just lounge around, learning how to play human. I didn't dislike them, but they were, well, weird. And when their POV would pop up in the book, it was also weird, and kind of hard to make sense of. But if there's one thing about these Girls/mermaids it's that they're different and unique.

September Girls is told from the POV of a teenage boy, except for when we glimpse the POV of the mermaids. Sam (maybe the only Sam I haven't swooned head-over-heels for, though I liked him okay) is a seventeen-year-old (I think) virgin that's dragged to some beach with his odd dad and douchey older brother for the summer. He has "boy thoughts" and thinks "boy things" and there is some graphicness and sexuality in this book. (Though I'd say it's more in the first half, and it's not so bad toward the latter half.) But to be honest, that's kind of what I expect from a boy POV. We've all heard that boys think about one thing all the time: sex. So I'm kind of surprised (but not displeased) when I read a male POV that doesn't think like that. No, Sam doesn't think about sex and its associations all the time, but the thoughts are there throughout. I see why people don't like that, but I have a hard time disliking the book for that because it's realistic and who the character is.

I may get some crap for saying this, but I feel like this is more of a "boy" book--not to say that girls wouldn't like it. Let's take this and...Anna and the French Kiss, a book that is definitely more girly. If you were to give a boy Anna and the French Kiss and a girl September Girls, they may not love the book. It's not they're kind of thing, you could say. But if you were to switch that around, a girl would probably like Anna and the French Kiss and a boy would like September Girls more than Anna. Would that always be the case? No. I'm just saying that...put yourself in a different pair of shoes. When reading Anna and the French Kiss, that's a definite girl POV, and as a girl, you may like that more. With September Girls, it's totally a boy POV, and a boy would probably like that more than the girly POV in Anna. I know it may sound like I'm defending September Girls, and I guess I kind of am. You have to give a book a chance, and that's what I tried to do with this book; I tried to understand it. Is this the kind of POV I prefer to read from? No. (Take away the sexual parts, even that's realistic and who the character is, and I may have liked it a bit more.) But I don't want to hate/bash the book because of that. Simone Elkeles, for example, (Perfect Chemistry) writes books with sexuality too, and a lot of people like her books (I love them). I'm trying to understand why so many are so NO on September Girls.

(Sorry for the rant, but I just felt like I had to say that. And if that came off as offensive or book branding or dramatic or whatever, that wasn't my intention. At all.)

One thing I really liked about September Girls was the writing. While the story had this sort off odd, eerie (though not scary) quality to it, it was written at a pace that made it easy to read page after page. And I really liked Bennett Madison's writing style. There's something sort of witty about it, and I would love to read something from him that's a little more "clean." With a less weird story and his writing, he could make a really, really good book. (Not that this wasn't good.) (Also, I loved The Little Mermaid references.)

This book had a wide and various cast of characters. Sam's family (without mom) goes to the beach for the summer, where Sam wanders aimlessly, his dad searches for treasure, and his brother looks for action. Sam's mom is no longer in the picture (though she may show up) after she up and left a few months ago for "Women's Land." But at the beach, Sam and his brother Jeff discover something (or someone): the Girls. And Jeff's not ecstatic that they're giving all their attention to his little brother and not himself. Two Girls in particular become a part of the story: "sisters" DeeDee and Kristle. All the Girls show interest in Sam because he could break the curse for one of them. Jeff was kind of a butthead, but he progressed throughout the story as he gained some understanding. And he digs Kristle, who thrusts herself (literally) on Sam. Once Kristle got over her "infatuation" with Sam, she became more likable, though I'd call her a bitch, and she wasn't my favorite. Sam fell for DeeDee, who seems different from all the other Girls. She's vague with answers to his questions, and is kind of eh about the world. But she was a likable character, and I liked her and Sam together.

September Girls is a book that could be called brutally honest in a way. While the cover may give off that it's a sweet romance and has mermaids, it's not that at all. While there is romance and there are mermaids, it's slightly more gritty and lacks the sweetness and cuteness of a contemporary/fantasyish book the cover may suggest it is. I'd recommend reading this unique and different summer story so that you can get your own opinion of it. With its well-done writing, nice pace, and interesting storytelling, I liked this book. I hope that you like it (or more) too.

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? No.
Would I reread it? Probably not.
Would I purchase it? Maybe. I liked it, and that cover would be pretty on my shelves...
Who would I recommend it to? People who like mermaids that aren't in their usual form and who like good writing that shows voice.


  1. Great review! I have seen a lot of hate surrounding this book, it's nice to see a review that just doesn't say it was dirty I didn't like it, you make a really valid point that it may just be people's dislike of the POV and the brutal honesty. I enjoy gritty, honest stories and September Girls sounds like one I should grab from the library just to give it a try.

  2. I'm glad to see a positive review of this-I was among those who pretty much hated it but that's not to say that everyone would hate it. It was interesting following the uproar around the book and I'm glad that's kind of died down.


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