Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Babe in Boyland

Babe in Boyland

Author: Jody Gehrman


When high school junior Natalie - or Dr. Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper - is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected - especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?

Published 17 February 2011.


This is a light & funny read. The idea is outrageous, but one that I've entertained for many times.

After watching Disney's Mulan, I kept on trying to find books dealing with the plot of a girl going under the disguise of a boy. The very notion itself has so many possibilities! So much trouble, romance & drama can ensue, it would be simply chaotic & astounding!

Jody Gehrman did a fun job of writing Babe in Boyland. The plan they had was ridiculous-- hacking into an all-boy academy student system, sticking pieces of wool as stubble... It was simple and straightforward, and the heroine did not hesitate to jump into her role of Nat Rodger.

But the thing I like about the plot is the social dynamics between boys as well as how Nat(alie) tries to fulfill her theatrical passion.

She starts off as a loser in the all-boys academy, a geek who looks girlish and is laughed at by Josh, her best friend's crush. The situation immediately reverses itself as Nat is spotted with her two best friends, Darcy & Chloe. And the boys treat her with grudging respect, thinking that she has a way with girls.

This is a story that you can't help but smile at. It's so simple yet so daring that it seems like a daydream you've always wondered about and now it's out in words.

All the while as we watch Nat manoeuver around Underwood Academy, we see her struggling to be herself with her hot roommate, Emilio. Nat's original school, Mountain View High, has collaborated with Underwood Academy for a play, The Importance of Being Earnest, with three students from MVH filling in the female roles in this famous play written by Oscar Wilde.

Amongst the three girls chosen, two are Nat's best friends (Darcy & Chloe) and the other is Summer, a girl who has always won the role Nat wants. Summer is the typical mean girl who is spoiled and fake, but this time, it's more interesting, with her playing the role of Cecily, who has a kiss scene with Algernon who is played by Emilio.

As Nat spies at the actors and actresses in rehearsal, she notices funny things about the way girls act with boys. She is obviously jealous of Summer, and her big chance comes when Summer ditches the Opening Night to go for a movie audition in Los Angeles.
Nat immediately suggests to let her cousin, "Natalie", play the role, as she had once been understudy to Summer in a previous version of the play. The problem is solved, and Nat goes through a makeover to become an unrecognizable girl in front of the boys.
"Chloe and Darcy have gone to great lengths to ensure the boys will never recognize me as Nat. They’ve made me way girlier than Natalie ever was. 

I’m wearing a long wig a couple shades darker than my natural hair color. My makeup is flawlessly applied; my eyes look huge and doe-like, my cheeks a delicate pink, my complexion smooth and creamy as ivory, my lips full and lush.

My costume is surprisingly flattering: high, stiff collar, a body-hugging waistline that makes the most of my limited curves, a snug little jacket, all of it in a pale violet that looks great with my dark hair and eyes. 

If I screw up every cue and get the blocking ass-backwards, at least I’ll look good while I’m doing it. Though the afternoon is grueling, I have to admit it feels fantastic being a girl again. Getting gorgeous via Chloe and Darcy’s labor-intensive ministrations is kind of like going on a chocolate binge after weeks of subsisting on saltines. 

Cecily is an über-femme character, so every minute spent rehearsing that role means letting my softest, pinkest self come shining through. I let my voice climb soprano-high, let my laughter trill coquettishly. I flutter my lashes and indulge in coy, ladylike hand gestures. It’s so unexpectedly liberating to exaggerate every womanly instinct rather than tamping them all down. I never really appreciated how great it is being a girl—how much more we can get away with. I feel unbound, expansive, free; who ever would have guessed that playing a Victorian debutante could be so weirdly therapeutic?"

The play is a success, but at the after party, Summer returns and recognizes Nat who is forced to date Emilio's Sister, Erica. What a confusion! The secret comes out and Nat fleds the party and leaves Underwood Academy. In the end, she got her happily-ever-after.

In the end, no matter how shallow or foolishly wonderful the book is, there is still an underlying lesson-- you will be glad that you are a girl!

Here's some  answers that our main character has derived from her trip to boyland (not very helpful for us at thirteen, but still fun to know):

A Girl’s Guide to Guys:
Their Top Seven Secrets Revealed
Dr. Aphrodite (aka Natalie Rowan)

1) When you say you’re going to call and you don’t, what happened?
This requires a little anecdotal evidence, so bear with me. While disguised as Nat, I went on a date with a girl. Despite being a girl for seventeen years, prior to this experience I’d never really considered what we girls act like on dates. Let me tell you, the reality was eye-opening.

The girl I went out with—let’s call her Jennifer—was perfectly nice. She was sweet and smart with a dazzling smile. I’m sure if I met her under normal circumstances I’d rush to fix her up with my most eligible bachelor-friend. Being on a date with her, though, threw me for a loop. It was clear she had great expectations I was supposed to fulfil, yet decoding those needs from moment to moment felt like a warped game of charades. She wanted me to be Man of Mystery and her sleepover BFF all at once. How could I help but disappoint her? Then I realized something: Jennifer’s cryptic, high-maintenance behaviour was eerily familiar. I myself had behaved exactly the same way on numerous dates; I’d just never stopped to consider what it might be like on the receiving end. So what am I saying? That he didn’t call because you’re a moody head case? No, that’s not my point. Sometimes, though, “I’ll call you” is simply the fastest way to escape the withering power of a girl’s disappointed glare and/or the tremendous weight of her misplaced expectations.

2) What do you really look for in a girl?
There are as many answers to this question as there are guys, I’m sure. I will say, though, that most of the stuff we girls think is super-important to guys usually doesn’t factor in all that much. Trust me, you’re way more worried about the five pounds you gained than they are.

Here’s my advice: No matter what you think he’s looking for, have the courage to be who you are. Watching my own best friends around guys made me realize that sometimes we hide our best selves and project this other, more contrived girly puppet version of ourselves because we think that’s what boys want. Guys aren’t stupid. They sense when we’re trying too hard.


This is a fluffy read, but no serious engagement. Go ahead and give it a try if you are looking for a teenage drama built on a daydream!

Source: PDF


Coming Soon:
The Best Books I've read in 2011
Amazing Debuts in 2012

He snickers. “Don’t know what they see in you.”
“I’m sensitive.”


  1. Sounds pretty interesting ! A movie with the same theme is She's the man :)

    1. Yeah! That crossed my mind as well! The most famous story would be Shakespeare's Twelfth Night :)

  2. Great review! I always love the girl-going-as-boy aspect. It's make everything fun and interesting. :) Thanks for stopping by my blog and following! I've done the same thing as well. :D

  3. YO SEL YOYOYOYOYOYOYO :D This is Shing whooooooo~ I stalked your blog this weekend *cough cough* and chanced upon this book review. Since it sounded awdsome, I went to read it and OMG IT'S SOSOSOSO CUTE MAN (: Thanks for introducing it! ^^ (And uh this account is pretty old and everything so don't bother seeing the blog :D)

    1. YO SHINGGGGGG!!!! YEAH you finally came, CRUISE AROUND THE BLOG and find more awesome books to read :DDDD

  4. Lovely review, I love the sections from the book you have added here. It really added to your review! This book was a very light fluff fest. If it had been a little more intellectually engaging this might have been one of my favorite books ever just because of the situation. But I agree with you. It fell in my neutral zone.

    1. Glad you feel the same! What a waste of content, but can't blame the author though, it's hard to tackle this girl-to-boy thing with flair :)

  5. Ooooh I've been wanting to read this book for the longest time! Mulan is one of my favorite movies so a book where a girl does something similar sounds awesome!
    Great review :)

    1. Yay, Mulan lovers unite! I love books where the girl goes under disguise as a guy :) Glad you do too!


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