Title: Any Other Girl by Rebecca Phillips
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
After a disastrous, reputation-destroying party at the end of junior year, Kat Henley has a new plan. When it comes to boys—especially other people’s boys:
In the past, drawing attention to herself helped distract people from what really makes Kat different—having two gay parents. But it’s also cost her friendships. Kat can’t afford to lose any more of those, especially not her cousin, Harper. They’re spending one last summer together at the lake, where they run into an intriguing newcomer named Emmett Reese. After years of trying to prove she’s just like everybody else, Kat has found someone who wants her because she’s not. A boy who could be everything she wants too—if Harper hadn’t liked him first…
Fast-paced with appealing characters, Any Other Girl by Rebecca Phillips is a gripping young adult novel that touches on quite a few relevant social issues.
Kat Henley’s friendliness is often perceived as flirting and as the story opens, a conversation at a party with her best friend Shay’s boyfriend ends their two year friendship when Shay accuses Kat of flirting with him. The last weeks of school are uncomfortable since all of Kat’s friends are also Shay’s friends and they turn their backs on Kat in support of Shay. With her apologies falling on deaf ears, Kat is more grateful than usual to be spending the summer at her family’s summer cottage. Eagerly anticipating their last summer together before her cousin Harper leaves for college in the fall, the two girls are delighted to discover a new family is staying at the lake. They quickly invite Emmett Reese to hang out with them and as soon as Kat realizes Harper has a crush on Emmett, she vows to keep her distance from him but will her match making efforts pay off?
Growing up with two dads, Kat learned the best way to deflect negative attention from them was to draw attention to herself. She is naturally exuberant but this attention becomes a way to validate her self-worth and this is where she runs into trouble. She carefully cultivated a girly girl persona to prove to outsiders that she does not need a feminine influence but in doing so, Kat also gives up anything that could be perceived as tomboyish.
Harper is the complete opposite of Kat. Quiet and unassuming, she lacks confidence and her self-esteem took a beating after her parents’ divorce. She has never had a boyfriend or made a big deal about liking a boy, so Kat realizes very quickly just how much Emmett means to her. Harper and Emmett have a love of sports in common but their interactions are often awkward and uncomfortable. Tension mount between the cousins once Kat begins to realize that she has feelings for Emmett and that he feels the same way.
Emmett is a nice, polite young man who quietly observes what is going on around him. He is dealing with family issues the best way he knows how and he is just biding his time until he can leave for college. Trying to avoid his parents as much as possible, Emmett uses running as an escape and he has created a safe place to spend time when things between his parents get too bad.
Despite both Harper and Kat liking the same young man, this is not a typical love triangle storyline. Kat’s main focus is fixing her cousin up with Emmett and she respects Harper’s feelings for him. For his part, Emmett never makes any type of commitment to Harper but once he realizes Kat does not plan to act on her feelings for him, he does make an attempt to see if there is any spark between him and Harper. Only when that fails does Kat even consider a relationship with him, but she remains torn between her loyalty to her cousin and her deepening emotions for Emmett. Kat continues trying to avoid hurting Harper but when the truth finally emerges, the ensuing rift between them seems impossible to repair.
By summer’s end, Kat is more self-aware and she has a much better understanding of the impact her behavior has on others. She also realizes that she can maintain her femininity while at the same time participating in the sports she loves. Kat also manages to face Shay and apologize for her actions with her boyfriend without expecting anything from Shay in return. Kat grows and matures throughout the novel and while she makes a few necessary changes, she still retains the traits that set her apart from others and make her unique.
Any Other Girl is a sweet young adult romance that manages to avoid unnecessary angst or drama. The characters are multi-faceted with easy to relate to flaws and imperfections. The storyline is well-developed and Rebecca Phillips adds depth to the plot with sensitive portrayals of realistic situations such as homophobia and Emmett’s troubled home life. All in all, it is a heartfelt novel that I greatly enjoyed and recommend to readers of all ages.