For Cassandra Davis, the F-word is fraternity—specifically Delta Tau Chi, a house on probation and on the verge of being banned from campus. Accused of offensive, sexist behavior, they have one year to clean up their act. For the DTC brothers, the F-word is feminist—the type of person who writes articles in the school paper about why they should lose their home.
With one shot at a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, Cassie pitches a research project: to pledge Delta Tau Chi and provide proof of their misogynistic behavior. They’re frat boys. She knows exactly what to expect once she gets there. Exposing them should be a piece of cake.
But the boys of Delta Tau Chi have their own agenda, and fellow pledge Jordan Louis is certainly more than the tank top wearing “bro” Cassie expected to find. With her heart and her future tangled in the web of her own making, Cassie is forced to realize that the F-word might not be as simple as she thought after all.
Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review
Now, it's been a few years since I was in college and the college I went to didn't have fraternities or sororities so I've never got the allure of them. However, the title to Kiley Roache's debut had me doing a double-take. That her heroine, a self-professed feminist was willing to go undercover and pledge for a fraternity had me simultaneously going, "You crazy, girl!" and "Please be careful!" Yeah, I just had to read this one.
Cassie comes up with this research idea because she needs to win a scholarship to attend the school of her dreams. Her interest in gender studies and her defiance of gender stereotypes makes joining a frat the perfect opportunity to study several issues. What she doesn't bank on though is how much her experience within the frat would challenge her initial thoughts about Greek life and affect her findings.
The research process doesn't go as smoothly as she hopes since she has to work in secrecy. Therefore, no one can know what she's up to and some of her actions tend to rub some new friends the wrong way. While she's hoping to get inside the frat house culture, some folks think she's either hurting women's causes or doing this as some kind of attention-getting stunt. Dealing with the skepticism and negative fallout make this an isolating experience though she manages to keep her chin up. And the surprise is that despite some rough patches, she does end up befriending a few of the guys in the frat and through their interactions she gains a different perspective on the issues she's trying to bring to light. The funniest, laugh-out-loud moment comes when Cassie conducts a sex-ed lesson to the frat brothers. Holy cow, I could not stop laughing! It makes you realize how much misinformation is out there so kudos to Cassie for taking that on.
I thought Frat Girl was entertaining with Cassie being a delightful character whose strength is shown through her confidence and her conviction to see something through to the end. It does attempt to tackle some of the currently relevant issues - perceptions about men's sexuality vs women's sexuality, misconceptions about feminism, bullying and hazing - just to name a few, but holds back from delving too deep, otherwise the tone of the book would be completely different. If anything it serves up several talking points for continued thought and discussion which I sincerely hope it does. I also can't wait to read more from Kiley Roache in the future!
I'm so happy to share an interview that Kiley graciously did with us. Keep an eye out for more good things to come from this talented young writer!
|Photo source: kileyroache.com|
Congratulations on FRAT GIRL! You’re a rock star to write and publish a book while still at university. How long had the idea been simmering in your mind?
Thank you so much! I wrote the first draft of the book after my freshman year of college. Although I did not personally join a frat, the emotional truth of the book was inspired by the things I felt and experienced throughout my freshman year. The idea first sparked when one of my friends bet me $50 to go with them to fraternity rush. For weeks after that conversation, I wondered what this experience would be like—for the first woman to join such an organization. I thought it might crystalize a lot of the experiences that my friends and I had our freshman year.
After writing countless articles for the likes of Huffpost, San Francisco Chronicle, The Mash, just to name a few, what was the transition to writing a book like? How did it change your writing approach?
Well, I had been writing “books”—50 page Microsoft Word documents on my pink laptop—since the seventh grade, even before I worked as a reporter. So writing fiction has been in my life for a while. However, there were definitely unique challenges to writing a full novel for the first time. It is easy to be excited about an idea at the beginning, but to make sure that premise and that character are well developed enough that they can take you through an entire story with a satisfying end, is definitely a different kind of challenge. However, I found that when it did come together, it was quite magical. I wrote the first manuscript I ever completed while I was in high school, and I often ended up writing well into the night, until 2 or 3 am, after doing homework until midnight. It was hard work for sure, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences.
In the book, Cassie joins the frat in order to study the culture of sexism and misogyny up close. She steps into it with definite views but periodically finds those views challenged, demonstrating that it’s not as clear cut as initially thought. Is that how you felt as you developed the story?
I think that throughout the process, I wanted the characters to meet people who challenged each other’s views. For young men like Duncan, Bambi, Jordan and Peter this means understanding the perspectives of women, and how they might experience fraternity houses, campus, and the world differently. For Cassie, her fundamental belief in feminism, in equality among the sexes, remains steadfast. She does however, encounter women who define what feminism looks like in a different way than she does, which challenges the details, but not the core, of her views. I definitely think this mirrored my experience during college, as I lived in dorms with people of various perspectives and backgrounds, and saw my own beliefs challenged and further developed through the conversations I had.
Is there a character in FRAT GIRL that you can relate to, and one that you’d like to know better?
In many ways I can relate to Cassie, particularly because my freshman year of college I had a group of friends, the majority of which were men. So a lot of the situations Cassie is in are things I have experienced as well. One of my best guy friends really did run across campus when a boy I was seeing was mean to me. I also relate a lot to Ben or “Bambi” as he is called for much of the book, since I was very focused and serious in high school, and had not really been to a party until college.
One character I’d like to get to know better is Peter. I don’t want to spoil, but there is a lot we learn about Peter at the end, and I’d be curious to explore further how his friendship with Cassie would develop.
How are you going to celebrate your book’s release?
The day of my release I primarily celebrated on the internet, and received so many kind messages from friends and the YA community. A week after the book came out, I had an event right near Stanford’s campus at Kepler’s Books, and a bunch of my friends attended, which was really great.
Okay, now we’re going to have some fun. The Bibliojunkies motto is “books, boys, pie” so with that in mind:
Which do you prefer: E-reader or a physical book? And is there a book that you had to have on both platforms?
I am definitely am a physical books person, although I have had an e-reader before. I read Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones for the first time on Kindle, and then just had to buy it to complete the set when I read all the other books in the series in paperback.
One Direction is mentioned in your book a couple of times… so who’s your favourite?
Oh wow that is a great question. I have to say Harry.
And if he showed up at your door, what dessert would he bring for you?
An even better question! I would say chocolate lava cake J.