The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys by Barbara Dee
Release Date: Sept. 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
According to Finley and her BFF, Maya, middle school boys can be put into three separate categories: tadpoles, croakers, and frogs. Per their official Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys, while tadpoles are totally not developed yet (read: boys who still love fart jokes and can’t have a normal conversation with girls without making fun of them), a frog is the top of the boy food chain—evolved and mature. Sadly, not many boys have reached that elusive frog status at Staunton Middle School. Finley thought she had everyone pegged, until Zachary Mattison enters the picture. After suddenly leaving the year before, Zachary’s surprise reappearance at SMS forces Finley to see him in a new light. And when the official life cycle list falls into the wrong hands, it causes a battle between the boys and girls that turns into an all-out war—one that Finley isn’t sure anyone can really win…
I’ll admit I went into this book expecting a fluffy romance, but instead got something that was more about friendship and growing up. Finley experiences all sorts of growing pains throughout the book and her relationship with Maya is something she struggles with the most. Maya hit the boy-crazy stage before Finley, something that puts them on a slightly uneven footing. Finley hates that Maya is constantly telling her she doesn’t understand boys. Sure, she may not have had a boyfriend, but does that mean she doesn’t know anything about boys? She thinks not and it’s the source of many fights. I love how realistic their friendship felt. Relationships, even with your best friend, are rarely smooth sailing. You have fight-you make up, it’s all about being on a roller coaster and just hanging on. This is magnified even more in middle school, when emotions and hormones are all over the place, and even the smallest thing can cause an upset. I really liked how Dee perfectly captured that and how they worked through it. (Even if it did take a little nudging from her mom.)
Finley’s budding crush was captured well, too. She didn’t want to really admit she had feeling for Zachary, but it was obvious that she did. And it was equally as obvious that he felt the same. Well, maybe obvious to everyone but Finley. I couldn’t help but smile as she lamented over him calling her and talking to her whenever he could. I just wanted to pat her hand and tell her it was okay, he just like-liked her. Although, I did have a small issue with her getting mad about his CINCH acronym, especially since it wasn’t much different that what she was doing with the Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys. The only real difference was his was about how to get close to the girls he liked and hers was about weeding out who was datable and who was not. I know Finley doesn’t see the Life Cycle like this at first (if ever really), but it’s truly what it’s about. Of course, on that same note, Zachary starting the war over the Life Cycle seems just as silly. Although, I do believe he was more upset that she lied and insulted him (and the other boys) than the Life Cycle itself.
Speaking of the Life Cycle and the war, it’s hard not to cringe when Finley walks back into the room and hears two of her classmates reading the Life Cycle notes allowed. I’m sure we’ve all been there, at least on some level. That moment something personal, and maybe a little uncool, is announced to everyone. My heart totally went out for her. The war that follows is a bit silly and realistic, but works well in the book. I like that it stayed relatively innocent when it could have become something that was much meaner. How they resolved the war, felt a bit too mature/level headed, but it wasn’t too far out of the bounds of being plausible. (Mainly, I’m not used to working with teens that are that mature! Usually, it takes prodding from me for them to work out their dramas.)
Overall, if I had to use one word to describe The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys it would be cute. I already know this will be included on my list of book talks when I go school visiting in May. Perfect for those tween girls, especially those looking for “clean” reads.