Y’all, I love Mariko Tamaki. If I were in charge of the universe, I’d request that Mariko Tamaki subsequently do like romance authors and write one book for each of the notable minor characters in Saving Montgomery Sole.1 Saving Montgomery Sole is about a girl with two moms who struggles to fit in to her glossy, carb-hating California high school; and then a Jerry Falwell-type preacher comes to town, and Montgomery is certain that her family will be a target for his hostility.
Mariko Tamaki hated high school and has said in interviews that she always struggled to fit in. In this book as in Skim and even This One Summer, and she absolutely captures the helplessness and frustration and sometimes-misery of high school. Montgomery and her friends insist on being themselves at a school where their selves are not entirely accepted, but Montgomery is the one who struggles with it. When other kids judge and tease her, she’s a simmering pot of rage, where her friends Thomas and Naoki have–to her–an astonishing capacity for letting high school mockery roll off their backs. And I love that although Montgomery has legitimate gripes with her school and her town, Tamaki’s not afraid to show Montgomery being, at times, a close-minded jerk herself.
If I have a complaint — get ready for an Angry Feminism Minute — it’s that all the skinny blondes in this book, and there are a lot of them, in a plethora of different settings, are one-dimensional carbs-obsessed bitches. Since a major theme of the book is that Montgomery and her friends are mocked for their perceived deviance from an acceptable norm, it’s disappointing to see the book itself condemning a particular gender performance in others. None of the skinny blonde bitches is granted any interiority, and while Montgomery ends up confronting some of her wrong assumptions about what people’s lives are like, the skinny blonde health nuts are not included in that revision of expectations.
As a culture, I’d like to think we’re moving away from uncritically reproducing the I’m not like other girls narrative — at least, I hope so. Equating a femme-y gender performance with shallowness and assholery just substitutes one set of restrictive gender norms for another set, and that’s not what we’re about as feminists, right, team?
- Yo I love that about romance novels. If you love a secondary character in a romance novel, like ever, you can be almost certain that they’re going to have their own book. ↩