Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley
Published by Harper Teen ISBN 978-0-06-220852-1
Trade paperback, $9.99, 290 pages
I don't normally read YA books, but when I received a pitch for Gwendolyn Heasley's Don't Call Me Baby, a novel about a teen whose mom writes a mommy blog, I was intrigued. Though I am a book blogger and my sons are now grown, my curiosity was peaked.
Imogene's mom Meg started writing a blog about being a mom when she became pregnant with Imogene over fifteen years ago. The blog, Mommylicious, has become pretty popular, and Meg is inundated with companies sending her products- food, clothing, housewares, even sending the family on paid vacations- in exchange for reviews on their products on the blog.
On one of the first pages, we read one of Mommylicious' posts, complete with links to previous posts that read 'click here'. As a blogger, that made me laugh a little with recognition. The book begins with Imogene's first day of 8th grade as she dreads her mother taking the annual 'before' picture of Imogene in bed before she rises and the 'after' picture of her dressed and ready for school.
As a child, Imogene sort of enjoyed the freebies and people recognizing her at the mall. But now that she is fifteen, she finds her mother's blog too intrusive. I mean, how many teenager girls want their experience with their first periods as the subject of a blog post?
Imogene's best friend Sage has the same problem. Her mom writes a blog about leading a vegan lifestyle, so Sage is forced to eat vegan, which she is no longer wishes to do. Both girls are tired of the teasing at school, and when their English teacher assigns the class a year-long project of writing a personal blog, the girls see a chance to put the shoe on the other foot and write about their mothers.
The moms are not happy with this. Their blogs are their livelihood, and though they don't make a lot of money from them (they are not quite the Pioneer Woman), they see the girls' blogs as a threat to them. Imogene posts embarrassing photos of her mother and Sage writes about her forays at the mall, eating her way through the food court junk food.
Imogene's grandmother, Hope a former LPGA golfer, and Imogene's father don't have any influence over Meg, so Imogene and Meg seem to be at loggerheads. (I loved Hope!)
Although this book is aimed at teens, I think there is a lot here for parents. My sons were too young for me to post photos and updates of their daily life on Facebook, but it does give me pause to wonder if they were growing up today, would I invade their privacy that way?
It's different posting baby pictures, but when kids are old enough to have friends and their own life, how much information is too much to share? In these days of invasive social media, this book gives you something to ponder.
The characters are interesting, although I have to say I found Meg a little clueless and single-minded. How could she not see that she was embarrassing her daughter? Even when we found out why she started the blog, I still found her actions heavy-handed. Imogene was more understanding than I would have been.
I think teen girls will identify with Imogene, with her desire to be her own person and not have her mother always talking about her, in her business, albeit in her case it's on social media.
The lesson in the novel is that communication is key. Parents and children have to be able to talk to each other about what is important to them, and listen and be listened to. I know it gave me something to think about.
rating 4 of 5