THE PLOT: ‘Girl Meets Boy’ by Ali Smith is a literary novel about queer relationships and sibling bonds. The book opens with sisters Imogen and Anthea at their grandparents’ house in Scotland. Imogen is uptight and straightlaced whereas Anthea is a dreamer who struggles to be “normal”. The narrative jumps forward in time to an adult Imogen who owns the house and invites Anthea to live with her. But, when Anthea rejects the “normal” path Imogen has laid out for her and gets into a relationship with a non-binary person, both sisters must figure out what they believe in.
RATING: Wow. What a book! A play on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this book explores non-binary, fluidity and queerness. It’s about reacting against the structure of modern life and finding out who you are deep down. In itself, the book plays with structure as it uses a range of linguistic tools (e.g. brackets for internal monologue and no speechmarks) yet it’s very easy to follow the plot. Set and published in 2007, this book feels like a timely precursor to many of the non-binary and trans discussions today, as well as to the MeToo movement and discussions about women’s rights and shallow 90’s feminism. It’s intelligent, it’s thoughtful, it’s simply five stars.
GOOD BITS: This book is a perfect balance of literary style and entertaining plot. Although the writing style is experimental, I felt like the plot was clear so I didn’t struggle with it at all. At 160 pages, it’s split into four sections that each have a different voice and tone. However, they all fit together and this mercurial voice helped me becomes invested in all of the characters. The setting of Inverness (Scotland) was compelling and I loved the descriptions of the heather and lochs. This fed into a sideplot about corporations taking over individuals (hello Amazon) that was exquisite.
NOT GOOD BITS: I’ll be honest, I skim read through some of the poetic sections. I mean, I loved some and read them aloud to my boyfriend. But some – towards the end – felt like overkill because the story was finished. The lack of continuing plot meant I didn’t feel like I had to read the final pages. I almost knocked off half a star for this, but re-considered as I think this book really achieves what it needs to and the author has very clear intention by including those aspects.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to fans of ‘Sisters’ by Daisy Johnson (atmosphere and relationships), ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata (societal expectations and form) and ‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta (style and form). All very different books, but I feel this sits in between these in some way… I don’t know. It was very difficult to think of comparisons. Just read this book!