August 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Feminism | Friendship | Fighting back |
Inspirational and insanely funny, this third and final book in the Normal trilogy is a motivating must-read manifesto for young women, not to mention a powerful wake-up call for detractors of feminism.
When two men subject Lottie to threatening sexual harassment, she feels embarrassed, afraid and, most of all, outrage at the male entitlement that led them to believe “my body was theirs to comment on”. With the backing of her college FemSoc and Spinster Club friends, she decides to (literally) call-out every single instance of sexism for an entire month by honking on a clown’s horn, and so the Vagilante Project is born. To help the Project gain ground, and to document her experiences, Lottie reluctantly recruits aspiring filmmaker Will. While he might be a “cocky jerk”, Will’s talent (and hipster good looks) can’t be denied and the campaign soon attracts major media attention. But the Project’s stresses take their toll on both her mental health and grades as her Cambridge University entrance interview looms. If that wasn’t enough, national coverage of the Vagilante Project brings out the trolls, and Lottie has to dig deep to stay sane and keep all her goals in her grasp.
For me, one of this novel’s highpoints is its incisive exploration of cognitive dissonance. For example, Lottie knows the social norm of having hair-free legs is a patriarchal imposition, but it takes great guts to ditch the razor and go au naturel. That such issues are handled with both insight and humour makes this novel all the more authentic, and Lottie’s story is full of madly funny moments, such as when she mimics a man-spreader on the tube, or when she staggers from Will “like some pissed-up feminist gingerbread man” because she doesn’t need a male companion to walk her home.
Packed with wit, warmth, honesty and passion, this novel will surely forge a path of empowerment for legions of young women (we could do with a real-life Lottie realising her ambition to become Prime Minister), while eliciting more than a few belly laughs along the way. ~ Joanne Owen