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Review of "GirlWise"

By Julia Devillers
Prima Publishing, 2002
Review by Jamie Attina on May 7th 2003

GirlWise, by Julia DeVillers is true to its self-proclaimed title, "The Ultimate Teen Girl Bible."  Aimed at empowering teens to be "Confident, Capable, Cool and In Control," DeVillers approaches real problems that teenagers face with real solutions.  While teen self-help literature often tends to be "preachy" or void of any content, DeViller's taps into a richly diversified sampling of insight from real women.  Over one hundred women and teenage girls contributed in the creation of GirlWise, making it quite representative of its very diverse female audience.

Divided into seven chapters, Be Confident, Be Cool and Comfortable, Be Capable, Be in Control, Be Creative, Be Caring,and Be Conscious, GirlWise is well-structured.  It has a plethora of titled subsections and is interspersed with quotes and inspirational pearls of wisdom, making it an easy and entertaining read for the average teen.

It reads like a teen magazine, with more than a liberal dose of "like," "you know," "totally," and "oh-my-god."  This speaks well for DeVillers in that she is quite familiar with her target audience, and that she is clearly up-to-date on the latest "valley girl" slang.  This style is a risky one, however, and the very elements that make it approachable in some instances make it obnoxious in others.  Indeed, the well-researched discussions by successful women are occasionally so trivialized by DeViller's cute exclamation points and parenthetic comments, that one begins to wonder why she didn't dot her i's with little hearts.

In terms of content, however, GirlWise is a definitely a worthwhile read for teenage girls.  There is nothing childish at all about most of the contributions, and female self-help authors often contribute an exact summary of their "grown-up" publications without any "dumbing down."  The Confident section is full of effective self-esteem enhancing exercises that a therapist, an older sister, or a friend might recommend.  The Be Cool and Comfortable section is probably of most interest to teenage girls, containing fashion, beauty and social advice. Be Capable is for the feminist--it serves as a do-it-yourself instruction manual for the areas in which girls "typically" do not excel, like math and car mechanics.

The Be In Control section is the most informative.  It has information on how to win college scholarships, how to apply and interview for a job, how to give a speech, and how to budget one's income, among other useful topics.  The subsection on fads is particularly noteworthy for it's shock value.  Many teens are not aware of the extensive measures advertisers undertake to manipulate their spending power.  DeVillers outlines this process in strong and objective manner.

The last three chapters of GirlWise concern the areas of women's lives that are often neglected in the incessant drive to excel.  Be Creative is about tapping into one's own talents and hobbies for enjoyment rather than recognition.  Be Caring is a guide to emotional maturity, and concerns how to relate to friends, family, co-workers and unpleasant people in a self-respecting and other-respecting manner.  The Be Conscious section ends the book on a high note.  This chapter is both centering and inspiring.  The contributors to this section finally have the opportunity to stand on their proverbial soap boxes and share their philosophies of life with their readers, and offer suggestions as to how anyone, even teens, can contribute their part to improve the world. 

Teenage girls continue to be inundated with images of sexy pop stars and advertisements that manipulate their self-images.  And though "girl power" is a popular buzzword, "feminist" often takes on a negative connotation in our society.  This interesting dichotomy leads one to question where the power in "girl power" is derived.  GirlWise is a refreshing source of intellectual, athletic, successful, well-rounded, and generally feminist role models.  And DeViller's winning presentation is bound to make GirlWise a popular teen read.


© 2003 Jamie Attina


Jamie Attina is a student at Dowling College, NY. 

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