As a celibate virgin who graduated from the University of Notre Dame, this book probably wasn’t for me. But as a woman and a feminist, I feel like it still should have been.
Thank you so much to The Write Reads and Flynn Meaney for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary digital copy!
Purchase this book (affiliate link): Amazon
About the Author
Flynn Meaney is the author of The Boy Recession and Bloodthirsty. She studied marketing and French at the University of Notre Dame, where she barely survived the terrifying array of priests and nuns, campus ghosts, and bone-crushing athletes who inspired Bad Habits. Since completing a very practical MFA in Poetry, she works for a French company and travels often between New York (when she’s in the mood for bagels) and Paris (when she’s in the mood for croissants).
For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.
Premise (from Goodreads)
Hilarious, bold, sparky and surprising, this is the funniest feminist book you’ll read all year.
Alex is a rebel from the tip of her purple fauxhawk to the toes of her biker boots. She’s tried everything she can think of to get expelled from her strict Catholic boarding school. Nothing has worked so far – but now, Alex has a new plan.
Tired of the sexism she sees in every corner of St Mary’s, Alex decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues. Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud . . .
Review (No Spoilers)
I think I need to preface this review by saying I am probably not the intended audience for this book. As a celibate (and Catholic, though my celibacy didn’t actually originate from religion) virgin who graduated from the University of Notre Dame (the school that inspired the book’s setting) I found myself frustrated and frankly offended by things that the average reader probably would have just happened read past. For this review, I’m going to attempt to step out from my personal experiences to give a kind of more general view of what I thought of this novel.
It is undeniable that Bad Habits is a funny book. Flynn Meaney is an extremely talented writer with a style that young adults (and adults who read YA like myself) will be able to gel with. Written in first person by a snarky fauxhawk toting feminist, you could probably imagine some of the great one-liners that come out of the narration. On top of that, several side characters manage to slide in some pretty good lines in themselves.
The setting of the book is in a kind of funhouse exaggeration of what the University of Notre Dame would look like as a high school. A lot of the traditions (and even names of buildings) are directly lifted from those of Notre Dame, the main difference that the obsession with football has been shifted to be an obsession with hockey. Notre Dame isn’t as conservative as St Mary’s is in the book (at least not when I was there), but a radical feminist struggling to express herself in the middle of an oppressive and conservative Catholic high school is a great stepping ground for tackling issues (often religious-based) that are still present in society today.
Unfortunately, I felt the book fell short of this goal. The main character, Alex, was really good at believing in and promoting one type of feminism. She is very sex-positive (which is great!), but somewhere along the way the translation of “my body my choice” turned into “if you want to be a virgin, you’re perpetuating the patriarchy”. Now, there was some pushback by the people around Alex as to how contradictory (and privileged) she was, but this happened too late in the story for us to see really any growth from her at all. It would have been nice to see Alex take more time to reflect and acknowledge the hurt she was ultimately causing while on her crusade of liberation.
In the end, the book did conclude on a very positive and forward-looking note, so I’m still hopeful that eventually Alex will learn that there are many ways to be a feminist that don’t necessarily disagree with each other. Bad Habits had a lot of potential to be a book I would have loved, and I can definitely see how this will be a book loved by many.
If you’re looking for a funny, light-hearted story about a young woman struggling to find her voice in a society determined to shut her up, definitely give this a try.
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