Fiction intentionally written for early teens sure has changed since I was a pre-teen myself. Judy Blume’s prolific introduction of then controversial themes of sex, death, and religion has given way to commentaries on gender discrimination, identification, and expression. In “What’s A Girl Gonna Do? One, Two, Kick Off Your Shoe” by George Wolkon and Barbara Wolkon, it is the complexities of gender prejudice that are tackled head on in a comedic context and tone.
A quick read, “What’s a Girl Gonna Do…” delves speedily into pre-conceived notion of what defines male and female characteristics, in this case, in a sports-related setting. Drew, the resident new kid at Midville High, happens to be what the school is in heavy need of: a place kicker on the football team. Despite the team being comprised of boys, Drew is encouraged to join the team at the insistence of Braden, the team’s star quarterback. Drew’s girlfriend, clearly insecure and representative of a catty teen, taunts Drew and her life status. Obviously different in both gender expression and aim of social status, both girls represent life’s tendency to pigeonhole women into either the tomboy or girly-girl archetype. Can you be one and not the other? The story aims to blur those lines that are still very prevalent today.
Braden sneaks Drew onto the field during a game, and as semi-expected, Drew scores the winning goal. Once it comes to light that Drew is indeed a girl, the town is catapulted into age-old conflicts of gender expectation and the underlying goal of social complacency. In this regard, George and Barbara Wolkon allow the reader to start thinking about the fluidity of gender and self-identification. The reader is prompted to contemplate why social norms are still rampant in today’s world. It is with the dissemination of these provocative questions that allows “What’s a Girl Gonna Do” to be heads and shoulders above some of the other popular teen stories popular today. Not only stylistically mature, “What’s a Girl Gonna Do…” succeeds in its goal of bringing to light the many assorted types of traits that are composite of humanity.