Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney
This is a Young Adult and frank book about relationships, family and “Body Positivity”. Featuring Monique, who at seventeen years old has a lot to learn about herself and what she actually wants from life, her family with its expectations for her and her relationships, and what happens when she departs from the script, and the power of women to effect change, it represents a steep learning curve. Funny, explicit but also powerful in terms of drawing a realistic portrait of the demands on young women from their peers, from family and other societal pressure, it is a narrative from the point of view of a young woman who feels the pressure to be a model daughter, but also meet the demands of her long term boyfriend. Perhaps I was not the intended audience for this book, but it is a novel with an authentic voice which represents much about a family where secrets and misunderstandings have been destructive. Some readers may find some of the details a little too explicit, but it has at its heart some of the dilemmas which have faced women for generations. Set in small town America, the characters do not want for money or material things, but there are other barriers against young women finding their way in the twenty-first century. I found it an interesting read, and one I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review.
Monique’s father is the pastor or minister of a lively and enthusiastic evangelical church, which can mean that there is pressure on her to be the perfect Christian daughter. Her mother is demanding and keen to stamp out impropriety, whether from her own daughter or Reggie, a boisterous young man with a reputation for dubious behaviour. Sasha, younger than Monique but seemingly fulfilling the role of perfect “church girl”, is held out as a pattern by her mother. Monique is unimpressed. She says “Sasha Howser embodies everything people assume about me. Church girls only talk about God. Church girls don’t ever take risks. Church girls are celibate.” Monique resents the unfavourable comparisons her own mother draws between them. She has had a boyfriend, Dom, for two years. He is seen as the perfect boyfriend, playing in the praise band, the son of a family friend, without his mother far too young, the son that Monique’s father never had and accordingly a favourite. Always seen as the perfect gentleman, he is the obvious choice for Monique in so many ways that she has gone along with it. What her parents don’t know is that Dom has been pressuring her to have sex for some time. On one level that is what Monique is keen to do, but it seems that she cannot quite manage. When Dom breaks up with her, her father is dismayed, and Monique is desperate to return to how things were. Instead she discovers that Sasha is not as straightforward as she seems, and Reggie, instead of being a troubled teenager, is actually caring in unpredictable ways. Perhaps Monique has to find out that people are not always what they seem and that she needs to take a new view of her life.
This is a positive book with lively and sometimes very amusing ideas. I enjoyed the portraits of some of the older women, who have much to reveal and can be surprisingly supportive. The concept of perfection in women’s lives is well handled, and this is a well written book which probably reflects real life.