Paintbrush // It’s 2017 Let’s Stop Shaming Girls in YA

Author: Hannah Bucchin
Genre: Contemporary| YA
Goodreads rating: 4.14
My rating:  ⭐


Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.

But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I have a lot of thoughts about this one, so I’ve decided to go with a list review. Usually this means dividing things into two lists: things I liked and things I disliked but… There wasn’t much I liked and I feel like if I were to split my thoughts up things could get a bit confusing. This has gotten pretty long, and I’m sorry for that, but I have a lot to say and considering this has a lot of positive reviews on Goodreads, I find it important to get everything out. So here we go!

💛 Initially I thought the friendship between Josie and Mitchell was cute (like I loved that they traded books!) and that it would be a cute relationship. But, it wasn’t. I know they’ve known each other since forever and have been friends all this time, but it still felt insta-lovey to me, since both of them were suddenly in love with the other?

💛 My biggest problem was that I didn’t like Mitchell at all.Josie wasn’t very interesting either, but I just felt neutral about her.Mitchel though? Both of them are at a party (though they didn’t go there together) when this happens:

When I turn around again, I see Josie and Cord face to face. Literally. Their faces are touching. My face goes hot. They don’t evenk now each other. Josie must be wasted.

Then it switches to Josie’s POV, and it turns out Josie has had like one tiny sip of alcohol. Cord, Mitchell’s best friend, is wasted, and puts his forehead to her forehead, telling her that they need to keep an eye on Mitchell, because he’s having a rough time at home. Then Mitchell shows up:

I lean back a little to consider this, when I feel a hand on my arm. I look up to see Mitchell. And he does not look happy. ”Come on. We’re leaving.”

💛So he just decides that Josie has to leave the party?? Look, it’s great that he wanted to take his very, very drunk friend (Cord) home. But it’s pretty obvious that Josie wasn’t drunk. It was just his jealousy talking and,, ugh.

💛 Rightfully Josie gets pissed too when she realises that there’s no emergency or just a solid reason for why they had to leave. Honestly I’m a little disappointed that she just didn’t ask why they had to go while they were still at the party, but I guess since they’d known each other since they were five she trusted him.

💛 Anyway,she wants to know why he told her they had to leave. And here it comes!!!”It was just… too much,” I (Mitchell) say softly. ‘’I didn’t want to see you there, like that. Partying and drinking and whatever. That’s what other people do. Stupid high schoolers who don’t know anything about real life. But you’re Josie. You’re different.” Then Josie says that maybe she isn’t. But Mitchell insists that she is.

💛 First of all, you don’t get to decide what kind of person Josie is, and whether she should party and drink. He’s basically telling her ‘you’re not like other girls!!’ and he’s upset that she didn’t live up to his ideal of her at the party. Second, you don’t get to tell her that she’s wrong about herself, implying that you know her better?

💛 He even ditches her in the middle of a public dance, without explaining it, because he hates the thought of his mom (who he’s fighting with) thinking that she had anything to do with him and Josie getting together?? And then afterwards he just knocks on her window and he just grins at her like nothing happened? He doesn’t explain nor even apologise for what he did, and Josie just lets it go?

💛Both Josie and Mitchell had great best friends who were far more interesting than both of them. I also wish these friendships had played a bigger part. Leah stood up for Josie without even blinking, even if she had to stand up to Josie herself when Josie is feeling insecure. Leah just loudly yells ‘unacceptable!’ in the middle of the cafeteria and tells her how great she is. My favourite part:

As I walk past her on my way to the trashcan, she reaches out and smacks my butt.
”Leah!” I glare at her over my shoulder.
”I wouldn’t have to do stuff like that if you would just admit that you’re sexy,” she calls.
I shake my head and keep walking.
”I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave,” she calls again, even louder.

💛 Seriously why couldn’t this book be about Leah. Or Cord. Seriously I loved Leah and Cord and they were so much more interesting than Josie and Mitchell what the hell.

💛 ”The fact that Cord’s dogs are named after one of the three stooges, an animated Disney baboon, and the star of The Sound of Music is pretty bizarre but also totally fitting for Cord. He lives in the giant mansion but dresses like he’s homeless – homeless chic, he tells me – drives a fancy sports car but volunteers as a big broher at the local elementary school, loves old musicals, smokes more weed than anyone I know, obsessively reads classic novels and comic books, and knits.”

💛 And Mitchell?? I dunno he hates Paintbrush?? He’s done with high school? He’s in love with Josie all of a sudden? He’s upset with his mom right now?? Oh and he’s a Golden Boy™ and Perfect Student™ with no flaws!

💛 But I did appreciate their friendship. Like serioulsy when Mitchell just shows up at his doorstep late at night he doesn’t ask questions and just gives him a glass of water and extra blankets.

💛 Why wasn’t this book about Leah and or Cord why did it have to be about such stale characters

💛 Josie constantly looks down on and shames other girls. She notices a girl who’s flirting with Mitchell is eating an apple: ”Of course she’s eating an apple – just an apple – for lunch.” First of all! You don’t know if that’s all she’s eating!! Second of all! So what if she is!! Don’t shame her!!

💛 She also loves to shame her sister, Libby, for what she’s wearing. ”I don’t really care how old she is. No one should feel the need to wear clothing that tight. Or the need to wake up a full two hours before school just to curl her hair.’ ‘It’s 2017 I’m tired please stop shaming girls

💛 But it gets better!! At some point she starts to describe her other sister, Mae, Libby’s twin. ‘Mae’s hair is thrown into a messy ponytail and tied back with a red bandana. She’s wearing black leggings and an oversized white t-shirt that reads Eat Local in big black letters. There are cake crumbs all down the front of this shirt, and for some reason this makes me want to lean over and hug her as hard as I can. She looks like she’s a normal fourteen-year-old girl. Libby, with her bright-red lipstick and strategically tousled hair, looks like a vampire who’s trying to be sexy.” STOP SHAMING YOUR SISTER. STOP PITTING HER AGAINST YOUR OTHER SISTER.

💛 There is a of course a mean girl who doesn’t add anything to the story except that she’s jealous of Josie being close to Mitchell.

💛 Seriously she appears like,, twice,, throughout the whole book??

💛 Josie’s mom was in an abusive relationship, which I wish had been more touched upon. Josie and her sisters also lived in an abusive household for a while, but this hasn’t impacted her in any way apparently. She does seem to be mad at her father, but it’s more of an afterthought. It made me wonder why this was even part of the plot, since it barely played a part. Same with Josie’s sister Libby’s ‘arc’ (it’s too stale to even call it an arc)

💛 Actual quote from this book: ”Last one in the water gets sorted into Hufflepuff”

Live footage of my Badger Army™ preparing to fight for Hufflepuff’s honour

💛 The Paintbrush community also played a big part in the book (sort of? Mostly it focused on the romance), but they were barely developed and most of them were randomly introduced so I had no idea who was who. Nor could I tell them apart.In a lot of ways this read like a first draft.

All of the characters should’ve been developed more, their relationships with each other as well. I didn’t care what happened between the main characters and their families, because they barely played a part. I didn’t like Mitchell and the way he treated Josie at all, nor did I like Josie constantly shaming other girls. Again, it’s 2017. Why is this still a thing in YA.

How do you feel about the ‘you’re not like other girls’ trope and girls shaming other girls in YA? Will you join me and my Badger Army™ in my fight to defend Hufflepuff? Let me know in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Paintbrush // It’s 2017 Let’s Stop Shaming Girls in YA

  1. Uh… WOW!! Totally valid concerns… I do think its hard for women NOT to judge… I kind of wish this had been written where she realizes she’ NOT being treated right and where she realizes she just needs to be more accepting, lol. The author’s own views and what they want to SHOW also play a part in how that story forms up… but uh, I’m NOT excited to read this now… Thanks for the warning Michelle! <3 YES Let's defend Hufflepuff!!

    • Yeah if all of this had lead up to Josie realising that it’s not okay to judge and shame other girls, I would’ve been fine with it! Same with the relationship – I’m all for writing abusive relationships, if it’s actually stated that it’s an abusive and unhealthy relationship. Unfortunately both of these things were normalised.
      You’re welcome! And yes let’s! Hufflepuff doesn’t deserve this

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this review, I absolutely HATE this stupid mean girl trope. I actually think it’s quite a dangerous stereotype to perpetuate because it suggests that this behaviour is a) acceptable and b) that all girls are silently judging you, which can totally destroy your self esteem. Plus it sounds like there’s a weird control element with the love interest/boyfriend which again is a dangerous thing to promote (if it isn’t challenged) because to show this behaviour as normal or acceptable, ESPECIALLY to a YA audience who might not have much experience of relationships can again be really dangerous. I’ll definitely be avoiding this book!

    • Yeah me too :/ It’s really shame to see this in a 2017 release. I’ve been reading so many good books with positive messages this year that I thought we had left this behind us *sigh* Wistful thinking I guess.
      Yeah and this trope is also pretty sexist, as it’s indirectly saying that Josie is better. Tropes like this are cause for SO MUCH internalised mysogyny, it’s really harmful.
      Yeah agreed! The control element only occured once, but it was never challenged and it was enough for me. It’s not romantic, it’s not okay. There have been so many great healthy relationships in YA lately and here we are, back to that old popular trope *sigh*

      • I totally agree with everything you’ve said. It’s just so irresponsible to keep peddling this “girls who wear tight clothes and makeup are stupid sluts” narrative too. It feeds into so much that’s wrong with society, up to and including rape culture. No one gets to look down on anyone else for the way they look. Everyone is unique and we should celebrate that.

  3. Pingback: The Weekly Hufflepuff #63 | I Am Eeyore – The Writing Hufflepuff

  4. Um, don’t Hufflepuff shame, how dare they? And that girl shaming is so unnecessary? Even the “you’re better than them, you don’t drink” – uh, actually, some girls like to get drunk! Parties can be fun! Leave them alone! I just instantly hate Mitchell and Josie, oh my GOD. Leah sounds like the highlight, and my best friend is also called Leah and that character reminds me of her, so I instantly love that :P

    • I know?? So much shaming in this book *sigh* Yeah what the hell! No one is better than anyone – drinking or no drinking, partying or no partying. Some people like to do those things, others don’t and that’s fine?? Haha same here, they were so boring and annoying?
      Haha Leah was *definitely* the highlight – really sad that the book wasn’t about her. Ohh that’s so cool haha :P

  5. Pingback: The Weekly (And Monthly) Hufflepuff #65 | Is This The End Of My Blogging Slump? – The Writing Hufflepuff

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