Book Talk: Frat Girl by Kiley Roache

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: Frat Girl by Kiley RoacheFrat Girl by Kiley Roache
Published by Harlequin Teen on March 27, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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Sometimes the F-word can have more than one meaning….

For Cassandra Davis, the F-word is fraternity—specifically Delta Tau Chi, a house on probation and on the verge of being banned from campus. Accused of offensive, sexist behavior, they have one year to clean up their act. For the DTC brothers, the F-word is feminist—the type of person who writes articles in the school paper about why they should lose their home.

With one shot at a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, Cassie pitches a research project: to pledge Delta Tau Chi and provide proof of their misogynistic behavior. They’re frat boys. She knows exactly what to expect once she gets there. Exposing them should be a piece of cake.

But the boys of Delta Tau Chi have their own agenda, and fellow pledge Jordan Louis is certainly more than the tank top wearing “bro” Cassie expected to find. With her heart and her future tangled in the web of her own making, Cassie is forced to realize that the F-word might not be as simple as she thought after all.

When I first heard about Frat Girl, I was on the fence about whether I wanted to read it. When I saw the cover reveal, I settled more firmly on that fence (this color scheme, really?). When it went up on NetGalley, I had the feeling I probably shouldn’t request it, but I’m me so I went ahead and did so anyway. Frat Girl‘s a tough read at times, but it was a thought-provoking one, and I’m glad that I did give Roache’s debut a shot.

From the start, I knew I would be finishing Roache’s debut. The writing is solid, and I was drawn into Cassie Davis’ story and curious to see how it would play out. The first few chapters flew by and the last 150 or so pages flew by, but I did slow down in the middle. I’m not sure if there was an actual pacing issue or if the content was just too much for me to bear in large doses in the middle part of the book.

As you might expect from the concept, the content can be tough to take. I knew I was in for a rough ride when Cassie’s roommate told her that she couldn’t put a sign proclaiming herself a feminist on the door of their dorm room. It gets worse from there, obviously, with the hazing and constant -isms at the frat. All kinds of offensive things get said and done, but they are done to raise a point and a discussion. That said, this book absolutely will not be for everyone, and you need to decide if the slut-shaming, sexism, homophobia, rape, etc are things that you can handle/want to read about.

Cassie, as part of a research project that will pay her tuition to Warren, a fictional VERY GOOD school in California, rushes the most popular/most offensive frat on campus, the one currently on probation. She’s aiming to write an exposé of frat culture beyond what anyone has done before. The premise does have a couple of believability issues. For one, I found it pretty ridiculous that this college would have such a strong Greek system and so many conservatives, considering that it’s in California. Other aspects of the campus (the mixed-gender dorms and lit “frats”) seemed very liberal and forward-thinking; it reminded me, outside of the Greek stuff, of Oberlin, where part of the campus tour pointed out the two conservatives on campus. I didn’t mind too much, because I do think this stuff is real, but I don’t think the setting choice really worked for the concept.

Another issue is that the study itself doesn’t seem realistic. Not only that, the way that it plays out doesn’t remotely make sense. Cassie absolutely would not still have her scholarship, even if it did work the way that the book puts forward.

However, I do think the book does an interesting job of raising most of the issues with Greek life. Be warned though that it doesn’t actually come up with a solution or a real decision about the Greek system. It’s more a method of getting people thinking than an attempt to drive an opinion.

The frat Cassie joins reminded me heavily of a frat on my college campus, the Betas (Phi Beta Kappa, I think), which actually got shut down after my sophomore year for too many infractions and too low grades. When the frat closed, the Betas got moved into the dorms with the general population and hate crimes increased on campus. So, with that knowledge, I do have some agreement with the complexity of the situation: just disbanding frats won’t fix anything until we fix the culture.

There are some really charming moments of Cassie interacting with the guys in her frat, especially the scene where she teaches them about women’s bodies and sex and periods. Cassie’s arc is primarily realizing that she has judged frat guys as a whole (and to a much lesser degree sorority girls) unfairly, even though the horrible bullshit is absolutely real. I found that myself when I interacted with frat guys on my campus: individually, they could be really nice and funny, but in a group, they sucked.

The romance weighs things down, I think. The book really didn’t need a “forbidden romance” plot, and there’s not enough time spent on it to make it super shippy either, so it mostly feels like a distraction from the important stuff that’s being handled. I did like when they were messaging back and forth about Netflix over the break, but I’m just not sure if having it in here made much of a point. Ordinarily that might be fine, but this novel is so much about making a point and highlighting systemic problems.

Though I’d maybe have liked the book to take a bit more of a decisive stand, I do think that Frat Girl‘s an interesting and well-crafted read. It does achieve its goals; by the end, I wasn’t sure how I felt either, when I came in with a decided opinion. There are constant call-outs to all kind of shitty behavior, both by Cassie and done by Cassie, and it’s full of important ideas to consider. It’s a good read for teens and adults alike, as we consider how to deal with the toxic masculinity and all the -isms of American culture.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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