CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2006
From the author of Sexual Intelligence and Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm and the actress who played Samantha in Sex in the City, comes a new teen book which might be more accurately called "Being Kim Cattrall" than Being a Girl as much of it draws on the author/ actress's own life experiences. But this is not necessarily a bad thing; this part biography, part "how to" book for girls is filled with chapters on many teenage concerns, such as self-esteem, family, friends, boys, beauty and sex. The book is filled with many photos of Cattrall, playful cartoons by the British illustrator Marf (Martha Richler), and chapters that are short and concise enough for the attention span of most teen girls. And while many great nonfiction books in this genre go unread (except by parents), Cattrall's celebrity status will likely bring her a slightly larger readership for Being a Girl. Granted she is not your typical teenage girl, as she moved from England to Vancouver Island at the age of 12, to New York City to enroll in acting school at 16, and has been an actress ever since, but it is true that many of her teenage concerns are universal one shared by most girls.
Given her popular role of a sex-obsessed business woman and her two previous adult non-fiction works, I was a little skeptical as to how she would treat the subject of sex in this book, if at all. However, I discovered the chapter on sexual intelligence to be one of the most "intelligent" of the book. Discussing masturbation and fantasies as healthy parts of female sexuality, the right time for sex, sexually transmitted infections and sexual violence, it is a responsible but age-appropriate chapter, and an incredibly necessary part of any nonfiction book for teen girls. There are many parents and teachers that may not like her frank discussion of sex, but, to all teen girls, it will be greatly appreciated. Also included is a "What Would Samantha Do?" section, where, while Cattrall does not criticize Samantha's sexual activity on the television show, she does mention one occasion in which she disagreed with the writers over a scene that involved Samantha bragging about her knowledge of oral sex to a 13-year-old girl.
"Seeing Beauty" is, in my opinion, the least intelligent chapter. While I do acknowledge that many teen girls will want to read about personal style, skin care, makeup, eating disorders and exercise, I found it a little difficult to take Cattrall seriously when discussing weight gain and exercise routines as this is a woman who looks as beautiful at age 50 as she did at age 20. A "blow" to her image came when she began acting at 16 and had a director tell her that 118 pounds was overweight for her size. It also seems to be a little Sex in the City-centric as she promotes costume designers and makeup artists from the show. While Cattrall's personal style was undoubtedly influenced by these women, such an experience is not an opportunity shared by most teens, a situation which could potentially make teens feel worse about their own appearance. For a woman who earlier made reference to our consumer culture's idea of cosmetic beauty and not losing your sense of self while attempting to become your favourite movie star, much of this chapter comes across as a little hypocritical on Cattrall's behalf.
Being a Girl will appeal to young women ranging from 13-18, but, due to the cartoons, the younger set will probably be more likely to read it in its entirety. It may not be the best book written on teenage girl issues (see Real Gorgeous by Kaz Cooke or Deal With It by Esther Drill), but it also isn't condescending in tone as many such books are, nor is it entirely biographical, and it's certainly better than anything Madonna has ever written! Plenty of positive messages, such as the power of female friends or having a strong sense of self, appear throughout the book, and one can assume these messages will provide some hope to the teen girls who read Being a Girl.
Recommended with reservations.
Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.