Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Don't Call Me Baby - Gwendolyn Heasley

Don't Call Me Baby - Gwendolyn Heasley
Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

Imogene's mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. Hundreds of thousands of perfect strangers knew when Imogene had her first period. Imogene's crush saw her "before and after" orthodontia photos. But Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her, in gruesome detail, against her will.

When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online...until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she's been waiting for to tell the truth about her life under the virtual microscope and to define herself for the first time.



Don’t Call Me Baby is a thoughtfully written novel. It really is Imogene’s story of learning how to stand up for herself, and get a message across to her mother (who runs a blog all about being her mom). But it also invites readers to really think about blogging, and other forms of social media, and how it has dramatically changed the way things are experienced.

Heasley used a conversational tone, weaving these themes in a subtle but recognizable manner into her novel. I really liked that it never felt preachy, or judgmental. It didn’t feel like a social commentary either. Instead, it felt more like an attempt to understand how blogging fits into our daily lives, and how it happens to be different for every person. And, as a blogger who strives to find the best balance between life, work, and running a blog, it was definitely some food for thought.

Imogene has lived all her life as the subject of her mother’s “mommy blog”. While there’s a certain glamour to being recognized by other people, and the perks of getting lots of goodies from sponsors, the glow has started to wear off. There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as having your mom share you getting your period, among many other things. But really, it’s starting to grate on her that her mother writes everything about her without even asking for permission, or respecting her privacy. That people only recognize her as Babylicious, and not as Imogene. That other people are allowed to have an opinion about what she does, says, wears, behaves – people who she doesn’t even know in real life. It’s fairly easy to understand why she no longer wants to be a willing participant in her mother’s blog, since it feels like she doesn’t get the chance to really experience anything just for herself. She’s a teen now, and that change her perspective on a lot of things.

Imogene has tried, but failed whenever she’s brought up the subject with her mother. So when her English teacher requires them to start blogging for class, she and her best friend Sage (whose mom is also a blogger) team up to become “The Mommy Bloggers’ Daughters”. The two of them start writing about their mothers, their feelings and let loose on the internet. What initially starts as a public offense against their mothers morphs into something entirely different, with Sage and Imogene eventually taking different stances (leading to an inevitable argument).

Imogene and Sage are really appealing because they react and act like typical teenagers. The small rebellions, the attitudes, the stubbornness, the giddiness over things like crushes, the inability to really understand what they are feeling sometimes, the instantaneous responses to things – all of this felt real! I liked that a lot, and Heasley did a masterful job capturing it.

But what I think is most interesting is observing each character’s relationship with blogs. Imogene’s mother and Sage’s mother are constantly generating new content for their blogs, obsessed with maintaining them, attending blog conferences and the like. Imogene’s father and grandmother know of the blog, but have no interest whatsoever in it. Imogene used to like being on the blog, but has realized that she prefers to really live life outside of it and experience things in the present moment, which is noticeable because of her minimum number of posts. Sage is frustrated with having her diet determined by her mother (who is a clean, healthy eating blogger), and chooses to rebel by binging and quitting her music, which comes across in her angry, hurt post. These are just some of the ways people react to blogs in real life, and I think Heasley did a great job fleshing each one out.

So how does this standstill between Imogene and her mother (and Sage and her mother) resolve itself? Well, you’ll have to read the book to really find out. But I will say this: the resolution is organic, and authentic. Though it seems like it’s got to be one or the other (keep blogging or stop completely), there’s also an additional option – balance

There also happens to be this really awesome boy. Just saying.

Don’t Call Me Baby delivered an incredibly readable story, all while also allowing readers (especially this blogger) to really consider the ramifications of life plugged in online. While it particularly tackled blogs, I still think it is also relevant in the light of the social media sites that are super popular these days. Heasley has managed to put together a story that’s compelling, thoughtful and just plain fun too.

When did you start blogging and what did you blog about? 
What are your favorite non-bookish blogs?

I started blogging in 2005, the same year that I started college. My first blog was on Blogger. It was a personal one, where I blogged about my feelings, my writing and my experiences. (It is defunct now, thank goodness, because that URL - alexadphenomenonalangel05 - was ridiculous!) I then tried LiveJournal, Multiply and Tumblr, but returned to Blogger eventually. I started another personal blog (With Love, Alexa), which is also defunct now. And then, in 2011, I created Alexa Loves Books. I haven't looked back since!

I read a lot of book blogs, but I also have read travel, lifestyle and fashion blogs! I'm always looking for new recommendations, but these are my favorites:
  • Snaps for Mel - I know, I know. I've mentioned my sister's blog before (and many times). But I just think my sister writes really well, and comes up with fun, creative ideas for what she wants to write about. The way she talks about all her adventures is just so well-done! (I'm also on there for her Wednesdates feature!)
  • The Wild and Wily Ways of a Brunette "Bombshell" - I just love the way Meg writes. She's very honest, and fond of reflecting on life, love and other things.
  • Love, Taza - Taza has been a long-time favorite. I love reading about her life, projects and adventures. She also has the most adorable family, especially her two cute kids!
  • The Londoner - Rosie leads an amazing life, and her blog lets us be a part of it! Her posts on her travels, foodie adventures and fashion are always fun for me to read.
  • Tiny Buddha - While they do have a lot of content and it can be overwhelming to see in my reader, I also love that there is always a post that I will be able to relate to. It's a great source of advice and inspiration.
  • Thirstythought - Kryz is a Filipina fashion blogger. I generally love her aesthetic, and would wear a lot of her outfits (especially lately, though there are certainly times when she wears something only she would look good in!).
  • Wendy's Lookbook - I love Wendy's wardrobe choices. They're usually very simple, and classic, but look amazing. She and MM (Mystery Man) also film some pretty amazing videos!

Bonus! Check out the book trailer. When this went up on Epic Reads, I wanted to read the book even more!

5 comments:

  1. This sounds awesome and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

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  2. I like that book trailer!! I can't wait to read this book. I would kill my mother if she put my entire life on a blog!! I can't even begin to think about what that would be like! I love the idea of this book... and I love blogging, so this one sounds perfect for me. Great review :)

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  3. This review convinced me to read this. I may have overlooked it due to cover and title combo otherwise. It sounds like a truly fascinating story. It certainly sounds like an interesting take on modern culture. And I love that trailer and how they used someone who actually looks 15.

    I personally try to keep my kids out of my blogging life. I mention their reactions to books in reviews periodically but that's it. Occasionally my daughter contributes, but that is only when she requests it of me. She used to want to do it for every book we read together, but only does it now when she completely disagrees with me about something. We did a joint review of Ever After High because she knew I didn't like it and she loved it. :) But I'm even very cautious about what I say about them on Twitter.

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  4. This book really surprised me and I ended up loving it. I agree with all of your points about the book being food for thought about not only blogs, but social media. And I also loved what normal teenagers Imogene and her friends were. Great review!

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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