I picked up Kami Kinard’s The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister for two main reasons: 1) several of my students recommended it, and 2) the author lives in South Carolina and will be attending the annual conference for SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians). The cover and title alone clued me in that this would be a “girl book.” (I wasn’t wrong.) I just wasn’t prepared, I guess, for it to be a “girly-girl book,” if that makes any sense. This book revolves around a seventh grade girl and her quest for a boyfriend. While reading, I reflected on my own (horrible) time as a seventh grader, and it was hard for me to relate to the main character in this book. When I was in seventh grade, I still thought boys were gross (and I still do to a certain extent). Also, I knew I was in for a rough time when the very first paragraph got my dander up:
“I am starting this experiment because I have no choice. Well, I have no choice unless you consider being a lifelong boyfriendless social outcast destined to die alone a choice. Which it isn’t.”
Um, yeah…as someone who’s actually chosen to remain single and thinks a life of virtual solitude sounds like heaven, this was a little insulting. (For those that don’t know, my lifelong ambition is to become a hermit. I think I would be awesome at that.) It seems to me that the main character in this book, at least in the beginning, has what I like to call the “Bella Swan Syndrome.” Having a boyfriend is the most important thing in the world, and a girl must do everything she can to obtain said boyfriend–and hold on to him–or she’ll just die. (Can you tell that I’m a feminist?)
Although I had some issues with this book (due mainly to my own past and present circumstances), it’s easy to see why The Boy Project would appeal to readers in upper elementary and middle grades. It’s a very fast read, often funny, and it even teaches readers a little about real-life applications of the scientific method. And even though I didn’t relate to the main character, I think many other readers will find it all-too-easy to make connections with Kara McAllister.
Kara McAllister is the only girl in the seventh grade who’s never been kissed. Even worse, she’s never come close to having a boyfriend. But she’s determined to change all that. This year is her year. She’s even going to make her quest for a boyfriend her science project. She’ll use what she knows about the scientific method to gather data on guys she finds attractive and what they’re looking for in a potential girlfriend, and–Voilà!–she’ll apply her new-found knowledge and nab herself a boyfriend–and an A in science. Simple, right?
As you can imagine, nothing is simple when it comes to figuring out boys and finding the perfect boyfriend, especially when the guy at the top of your list asks out your BFF. Kara uses observations, “expert” advice, interviews with her sister, surveys, and eavesdropping in the boys’ bathroom to answer her all-important question: How do I get a boyfriend? Sometimes her research methods land Kara in a bit of trouble, and she even considers abandoning her project altogether, but she moves forward and realizes that maybe the key to finding a boyfriend isn’t to figure out what they’re looking for but to realize what she’s looking for.
Kara learns that she has to be true to herself if she wants others to see how great she is. Yes, she (like everyone else in the world) could improve on a few things, but she has to be herself if she wants a boyfriend. No, not just a boyfriend, but a boyfriend who will really make her happy.
Will Kara McAllister ever succeed in finding a boyfriend? What will be the final results of her science project? I’ll leave that for you to find out when you read The Boy Project by Kami Kinard.
I don’t know what else I can say about this book. Parts of it were cute, and some young girls will like it, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I find the very idea that a girl MUST have a boyfriend to be disturbing, and, while that doesn’t end up being the primary message of this book, it’s still a big part of it. There are worse things than not having a boyfriend. Trust me.
If you’d like to give The Boy Project a try or just want to learn more about the author, you can visit Kami Kinard’s website or follow her on Twitter. You may also want to check out this book trailer that I came across on YouTube It encapsulates the book fairly well.