Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.
What’s the Big Deal?
B.T. Gottfred is the acclaimed author of Forever For a Year, The Nerdy and the Dirty, and my personal favorite, The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy. All three books are excellent examples of prime young adult fiction, and all three have received some semblance of critical acclaim. Although each of his three novels are different, they all share similar themes of love and first sexual experiences, as well as names of people and places that cleverly worm their way from his first book to the last. Gottfred is also an experienced screenwriter, producer, director, and playwright—so you can be sure that experience from many different pathways of life sprinkle his writing from cover to cover.
The book kicks off in a Chicago pizzeria, where tomboy Zee is having her regular Monday dinner with her longtime friend, Cam. Zee is in love with Cam, but because she doesn’t want to ruin their relationship, she doesn’t tell him. Additionally, he has a girlfriend, who frustratingly shows up at the pizzeria that day to join them.
What would just be irritating, however, turns into something life-changing. Because Abigail, Cam’s girlfriend, had to bring her brother along—and the moment that her brother, Art, locks eyes with Zee, he knows both their worlds are about to change forever. What follows is an exchange of numbers, many movie dates, and nights in a motel room that defy classification and surprise both of them.
Art and Zee are perfect for each other, but their relationship is strange no matter which way you slice it, and it only gets more complicated. Zee thought she was in love with the masculine Cam, so what does it mean when she falls for the opposite of that? And Art was sure he was straight—so why is he finding himself attracted to Jayden, a feminine boy?
The pair were so used to stereotyping themselves and their sexualities that it comes as a shock to realize that perhaps they just defy classification. After all, why should love be labeled? Art and Zee certainly don’t have everything figured out, but as the pieces of their lives fall into place, they realize that they don’t mind exploring new territories as long as they’re together.
- Author: B.T. Gottfred
- Pages: 420
- Genre: YA romance
- Ratings: 3.6/5 Goodreads, 4/5 Common Sense Media
- Release date: May 8, 2018
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
To Read or Not to Read?
I recommend this book if:
- You enjoy the romantic coming-of-age styles of some of the other YA books I’ve reviewed, such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post (here), Every Day (here), or An Abundance of Katherines (here)
- You’ve ever asked yourself about what constitutes modern romantic attraction, and wondered if perhaps the lines of gender roles and sexuality aren’t as inviolable as they seem to be
- “Open heart, open mind” is a saying you agree with
- You tend to gravitate towards unique books with unique characters (trust me, you’ve never met anyone like Art before!)
- You aren’t bothered by somewhat avant-garde romantic/sexual matters
- You like books that aren’t overly emotional or dramatic, but rather enjoyable and lighthearted while still teaching subtle lessons along the way.
You can do whatever the heck you want to do. You can love whoever you want to love. You can be whoever you want to be. Anyone who says you can’t, no matter what religion or bullshit they are hiding behind, are only telling you that you can’t be you because they’re terrified of the freedom to be who they want to be.
— B.T. Gottfred, “The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy”
“This is a fascinating, complex, authentic, passionate story about first love, connecting authentically with another human being, and being your true self. Author B.T. Gottfred shows what it means to defy gender norms and to persevere in the face of fear... In the end, this is an emotional and empowering story about a powerful connection between two high schoolers who are open enough to find each other, to love, and to live authentically.” —Common Sense Media
“In this big-hearted novel, Gottfred explores the fluidity of gender and sexuality, including questions about what makes a person straight, gay, or bisexual; the confusion that liking both girls and boys can provoke in a teen; and the many nuances of attraction.” —Kirkus Reviews
In my opinion, The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy is as enjoyable as it is unique. I think what makes it so wonderful is the quick-witted, brilliantly penned first-person chapters, alternating between Zee’s perspective and the magically entrancing comedy of Art’s. B.T. Gottfred really has a way with characterization; with every word, you feel as if you’re looking inside each person’s brain, and by the end of the book you feel as if you’re letting go of good friends.
Plus, the book sends out an important and powerful message to the teens who read it, and anyone wondering if maybe rules really were made to be broken: gender and sexuality aren’t switches, they’re spectrums, and love between two people can take many different forms—none of which have to be the ideal of what a relationship “should” be.
Rose McCoy (author) from West Virginia on August 22, 2020:
My pleasure, Umesh! Thank you! :)
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 22, 2020:
Interesting review. Well presented. You have reminded me one book that I read long back in Hindi language where the feelings of subtle love were depicted with great narration. The hidden love between Zee and Cam (of course from Zee's side) appears similar. Anyway, nice reading, thanks.