‘I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ Explores Identity, Stereotypes and, of course, Manic Pixie Dream Girls!

  |  Topic: Books, Identity, Reviews
By Catherine Boyd

Beatrice Giovanni, a half-Filipino high school math whiz with a killer wit, an acerbic tongue, a lovely mom and a cheating, divorced dad has her eye on a place in the social hierarchy of Fullerton Hills High School and at MIT in the fall. But when her boyfriend Jesse breaks up with her for a girl easily defined as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Beatrice reinvents herself as Trixie Giovanni, a sunflower-loving, French-speaking, bubbly young girl with an affinity for mismatched shoes in order to win him back.

I had so many emotional highs and lows while reading this novel by Gretchen McNeil. I appreciated Beatrice’s resourcefulness, her strength and fierce loyalty to her friends, her love for math and how she actively applies it to her daily life. But ultimately, the story isn’t truly about Beatrice Giovanni in competition for her boyfriend’s affections or her ascent into popularity. It’s about being true to yourself.

As Beatrice and her pals Spencer and Gabe sink into their new identities, the populace suddenly sees them in a whole new light. They are no longer the social outcasts they perceive themselves to be. They are nearly gods. How they do this is tricky. Instead of being themselves, they choose to embrace the stereotypes and discover the costs of embracing those stereotypes, which both warmed my heart and played a stuttering staccato beat in my chest.

But how author Gretchen McNeil approaches the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype is refreshing. Basically, a manic pixie dream girl is a woman who exists to make another person’s life interesting and exciting. The archetype is usually invented by males so the gender change up here makes the novel interesting. Typically, MPDGs are good at attracting attention and livening up the lives of others with new, wacky approaches to existence (think Jess on the Fox sitcom “New Girl”). Often times, in movies and literature, they have no goals or interests by themselves. Beatrice examines them, studies their psychology and appeal in order to emulate them. While I only had the basic definition of a MPDG before reading this novel, McNeil brings these characters full circle and makes them three-dimensional.

But soon the dream and the formula turn to ruin as Beatrice and her friends become the masks they portray. For readers like myself, expectations are high for a archtype-busting novel like this. Going in, I had high expectations for the characters, as much as Beatrice’s friends had for her.

This novel has great moments and cliched moments. Beatrice’s romantic choice, for example, could’ve been predicted from a mile away and her need to steal back her ex (despite her rational and analytical approach to difficult situations) had my eyes rolling all the way to the vertebrae of my spine. But I loved how she tries to fix things and take responsibility for her actions.

But as readers will discover, there are some unintended perks to wearing a mask. I suggest you pick up this book. It’s a dream ride. Just don’t forget to wake up at the end!

Catherine is a freshman at Georgia State University-Perimeter. One day when she’s a published author and retired from her other career (whatever that is), she wants to own her own winery and grape vineyard.

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