“Enrol here for rebellion!”
Genre: YA contemporary, teen fiction.
Similar to: Mallory Towers but with more teenage angst
Could be enjoyed by: The Youth of Today
Publication date: 11th February 2021
Alex Heck – self proclaimed Riot Grrl and all around feminist loudmouth is exiled to the worst place she can think of – a strict private Catholic boarding school. Like a fish out of water, Alex decides to make a stand against the authoritarian rules by staging a performance of The Vagina Monologues with the secret hope of getting kicked out. In the face of stiff opposition Alex relentlessly pushes against authority but realises she can’t do it alone; will she be able to form an unholy alliance with people so different to her? Will her efforts be rewarded? Will her lady-fauxhawk survive under the weight of oppression – and the withering glares of the nuns?
I was very excited to read Bad Habits – it sounded right up my street. Feminism, humour and rebellious characters all wrapped up in bright, fun cover art – what’s not to love?
Well, you see, there was one thing. At first, the main character, Alex Heck, was simply not as likeable as I’d expected her to be. She proclaimed to be a sex positive Riot Grrl but her idea of feminism seemed to only include people who thought and acted like her – and she was downright mean to anyone with a different opinion. I found it really uncomfortable when she judged and excluded everyone from her protest-party-for-one and how sneering and derisive she was towards the girls who, for example, wanted to remain virgins until they were married. However, Alex was finally called out for her behaviour by my own personal hero of the book, Mary Kate, who said everything I was thinking about Alex failing to recognise her own privilege, her exclusive attitude and her inability to change her very rigid ideals. I LOVED Mary Kate for this and seeing her personality develop over the course of the book was really brilliant. Perhaps this could have come a little earlier on in the plot and arguably Alex could have taken the comments on board more but I’m really glad that she got her come-uppance.
Apart from that, I loved how much fun the storyline was and how it didn’t follow the path I thought it would. Some of the scenes were laugh-out-loud funny and I found myself quickly immersed in the world of St Mary’s. I expected a final act of rebellion from Alex but actually I really enjoyed seeing how she stopped seeing people in very one-dimensional terms and actually learnt to get along with others – even the people she assumed would be her mortal enemies. Alex’s friendship with Mary Kate was particularly enjoyable to see and I thought that the way the girls showed each other a different perspective on life was a great example of women raising each other up, despite their differences. Proper feminism!!!
Overall, I really liked this fun, quirky book. Yes, the main character could have been more likeable (especially in the initial part of the book) but she was surrounded by a cast of great friends and I loved seeing them work together, putting their differences aside and finding strength in their different skills.
Four “Bad HABITS – like the nuns! I see what you did there”‘s out of five.
Fun, funny and easy to read – I just wish I’d liked the main character more!
Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Penguin and Dave at The Write Reads. Thanks everyone – and apologies to Dave for posting the review late!