book report | not that kind of girl

book-report-not-that-kind-of-girl

Time for another book review! I finished Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl on Thursday and have had a couple of days to process it, so I'm ready to share my second review for my 2015 reading list series.

Going Into It | As much as I don't want to spend this entire post discussing Lena-the-human, it's hard to discuss Lena-the-writer without at least addressing that she is a very controversial character in current pop culture. I had reservations going into this book because I'm aware of her often problematic comments and thought processes. However, I ultimately decided that I wanted to read the book for myself, with a critical mind, but without too much prejudice.

I guess to give some background, I watched the first three seasons of Girls and enjoyed it enough, though I don't have HBO and haven't yet made any effort to watch the fourth season. I did really love her film Tiny Furniture and I have a tendency to like her writing in the form of New Yorker articles, etc.

The Book | I essentially read this book in two sittings. By that I mean that I picked the book up and then put it down for a month or more before picking it back up. After I started reading the second time, I was good about reading regularly, almost every night before bed. The reason I stopped was because the introduction is just too much and I was worried about what that meant for the rest of the book. We know from Girls that Lena is on the self-absorbed side, so having a whole book to write about herself could easily get out of control. After a self-serving introduction comes a section called Love & Sex, which I'm sure her editor encouraged because people love the ~wild and crazy~ shock factor of Lena talking about sex. I put the book down because this sounded exhausting. However, after picking the book back up, I was pretty pleasantly surprised. 

One thing I realized while consuming Not That Kind of Girl is that Lena experiences life in hyperbole. To be really clear, I'm not saying she exaggerates her stories. What I'm saying is that she experiences things on a deeper and bigger level than the other people involved, and it makes her accounts of those experiences seem over-the-top. I trust Lena as a narrator because she describes what she felt, which she remembers really vividly. 

Aside from being able to trust my narrator and finding her stories and perspective entertaining, I love her prose. I would happily read a 10,000 word Lena Dunham description of her visit to a dog park. Can you imagine the dynamic imagery of the beagles and spaniels? And the way their different poop smelled and the thought process she went through when a spotted bull terrier sniffed her butt? I love Lena as a storyteller because I love the way she brings me not only into the scene, but into her experience of the scene. She may come off as a rather special snowflake in life and in writing, but she does have a uniquely intriguing mind and I appreciate her way with words.

One of the sections of the book that sticks out to me the most is a trip she took in her late teens or early twenties to London with a frail artist she intimately admired. I thoroughly enjoyed Lena's trip down memory road, complete with nostalgia blurring the corners, as she explored the kind of attraction you can have to another person who you connect with intellectually. I may not relate to her every narrative of sexual adventures or early-life therapy appointments, but I can find something to hold onto in the way she connects to people and experiences. I find value in that as a writer and a reader.

I want to talk a little about her description of her sexual assault. This is an extremely personal trauma that many, many writers have bravely put into words. Lena beautifully interlaces the story of her assault with stories of other sexual experiences and relationships. From a writing perspective as well as a human perspective, I think this was a smart and thoughtful choice because this particular incident occurred young in her sexual life and has affected every encounter since, in some way or another.

Lena uses the episode effect throughout the sections of her book, which I liked because we got just enough sense of each story and the characters in her life to understand where she was going with the following paragraph.

My Recommendation | While I decidedly enjoyed the book, I realize that it's very much an acquired taste. Most people aren't going to be able to get past her aforementioned hyperbolic explanations of things, nor her general mentality. There was a quote that I made sure to note for this particular part of the review. If the following sentence doesn't totally turn you off, then you might like the book:

"I haven't been to London since age fourteen, when I was angry my mother forced me to ride a Ferris wheel and even angrier because I liked it."

So there you have it. Have you read Not That Kind of Girl? What did you think? If not, do you plan to read it after having read this review? In case you missed it, here's my review of Yes Please.

13 comments

  1. I read it and I too found the first half a bit "too much" and I had to come back to it. I think we must have similar feelings toward it. I'm glad I ultimately finished it, but I also still feel this eye-rolling feeling towards it. I have my misgivings and admiration for her as an artist. I think I found while I want her voice out there because it's valid and funny and witty; I just don't want her voice to be the "voice of our generation" which I feel she's sometimes viewed that way. I'm just ready for more awesome women of our age to have their moment too.

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  2. YES YES YES. she's a valid and often funny or poignant voice, but FAR from the voice of our generation. she's just a voice i like to check in on sometimes, which is still a pretty great position for her to be in.

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  3. You didn't miss much with season 4 of Girls. Someone asked me the other day what the season was about as a whole, and I honestly couldn't tell her. It was so jumbled and pointless (isn't it supposed to be funny as well?). Not sure if I'll even watch the next season.

    I don't hate Lena, but I do find her interesting. She can be a little over the top for my taste sometimes, so I'm still on the fence about reading her book. I'm finishing up the book Unbroken right now (soooo good, I recommend it to everyone) & next I'll finally read Yes Please :)

    www.rachellately.com | Austin Style Blog

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  4. As much as I want to read this because I have read some very good reviews of this book, your review feels the most honest and makes me want to pass on it. While I love an intense read, an overly descriptive read about things I'm not that interested in... no thanks.

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  5. For me, I keep asking myself the question, "Would I read this book if Lena Dunham wasn't such a public personality?" And based on your thoughtful review, along with others I've talked to, I think I'm probably going to pass on this one. Lena's just not for me, either as a TV character or a writer.

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  6. You make me want to read all the books. This is happening right after the amy poehler book.

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  7. I completely agree. I was obsessed with the first few seasons of Girls, it just was so interesting to see these different characters come together, and besides a few weird episodes (like that one with the doctor in the townhouse...that was weird), I really enjoyed it. This season was....weird. I still watched and wanted to know what happened, but I kind of stopped caring.

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  8. Same here, I just finished it to see how it was gonna end & if any of it had a point, haha. And that doctor in the townhouse episode... when does that ever happen in real life?? >_<

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  9. Love that we're reading the same stuff! This is definitely an acquired taste, but I dig Lena, possibly because we're both a little over the top.


    So, you've read this and Yes Please (which I adored!)- have you read Mindy Kaling's book?! If you haven't, I highly recommend it.

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  10. Mindy's book is one of my all-time favs! It's the second funniest book I've ever read, the first being Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (which, if you haven't read, should be next on your list!).

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  11. I have generally been put off by her personality and am not big into shock value, which she seems to play with a lot, but I've also heard some good interviews with her and read some good things by her, so I am interested in the book and glad to read your thoughts! Honestly, it'll probably stay on my list for a while and I'll never get around to it, but who knows?

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  12. I really struggled with this book, and ultimately had to give up on reading it because I just couldn't convince myself to keep reading it. I'm not a huge fan of Lena Dunham but don't have any issues with her either (except that she always seems to end up in a dress that looks like it's painful in some way on the red carpet, and then I feel sad because her arms/boobs/stomach/hips probably were hurting). However, I couldn't get past the end of each story, which seemed consistently written as a reminder of how great and brilliant and talented she is. This may have changed at some point, but I didn't make it that far. My struggles with that, coupled with similar struggles mentioned by four of my friends, eventually told me that Not That Kind of Girl was not the book for me.


    But that's the great thing about books, right? One human's trash is another human's treasure, and there's a book for everyone. (You can trust me, I'm a librarian. So I KNOW. *jazz hands*)

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  13. Thank you so much for your review on this book! I think it sounds fascinating and I very much would like to read it. I've never seen anything that Lena Dunham has been a part of, which means I pay very little attention to any news about her (I'm very selective about who, in Hollywood, I pay attention to), but I do know that I appreciate how outspoken she is about things like sexual assault and feminism. I think I'll enjoy her book - adding it to my list!

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