Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

Girl PartsGirl Parts by John M. Cusick (Candlewick) is a sort of an update on 80s movie favorite Weird Science (meaning mostly that it reminded me vaguely of the aforementioned film). Charlie Nuvola is the everyday loner who lives on the wrong side of the lake and, when the new school counselor says Charlie's depressed and needs to be not alone, Charlie's option is to try dating (rejecting the "Fixol" prescription), with predictably disastrous results.

In contrast, David Sun lives on the good side of the lake, so after it's decided that he's "disassociated," he gets the latest high-tech solution to teach him human relations: a girlbot. Rose is learning to be human as she goes along, and she both loves David and keeps him at arm's length with some very persuasive deflection. The question is whether Rose--who David knows isn't human--can teach David (or anyone else, including Charlie) anything about being a better person. Is it really all about the parts on the inside/outside? And what would a girlbot do if she didn't have a David anymore?

I liked Girl Parts a lot, despite some personal dissatisfaction with how some of the threads came to an end. It's rare in my reading to find a book that acknowledges that boys could be mentally ill (whether they are or aren't in this story is a separate issue), considers gender as being about and not about parts (and I'm not sure how I feel about it here; it will definitely please some and annoy others), or addresses issues of consent and control in relationships. Rose, even as robot, is a fully developed character, and our glimpses of other girls are interesting as well--a real girl struggling with relationships, another who initiates a one-night stand for her own pleasure. In the same vein, the boys vary from the type to cop an anonymous feel in a crowd to those much better behaved. In the end, just as in real life, being human is about a lot of different things. 

I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.

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