Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Real Rebecca

The Real Rebecca
Anna Carey
Dublin, The O'Brien Press, 2011, 256p

For some reason, the Bechdel test keeps coming up in conversation or my reading recently. This is a standard used by some feminists to judge and critique films, books and other media. The criteria ask
  1. Are there at least two women in the film / novel / other
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than men?
Subconsciously, I often use these points to judge what I read, especially with fiction targeted at young women. Many novels written for teenage girls have an element of romance within them, but it is the addition of other causes of drama that make such novels enjoyable.

Rebecca is the subject of one such novel, though in a rather unconventional way. Her mother is an author who has just decided to delve into the world of young adult literature. She has written a book which she claims is based on the 'antics' of her two teenage daughters, and Rebecca is overwhelmed with embarrassment at her mother using her life for inspiration. So she sets out to show everyone The Real Rebecca, by rebelling against everything that characterised her mother's new protagonist. 

The teenage girls written about by Rebecca's mother are boy-obsessed, fashion-obsessed and have even started their own pop band. So when Rebecca and her friends set out challenge the assumption everyone had about the character being the same as Rebecca, I was surprised when they started their own band, albeit more indie than pop. The friends are working towards an upcoming Battle of the Bands competition, which they are entering in part to show off to Paperboy, the man of Rebecca's dreams. 

As you can see, in trying to show her real self, Rebecca seems to be reinforcing the similarities between herself and her mother's fictional character. And yet, I didn't abhor the character, as I sometimes do with books like this. The Real Rebecca just scrapes through the Bechdel test, but the female protagonists are well-developed, interesting and probably just the sort characters I would have enjoyed reading about as a young girl. 

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