A quirky debut, Who’s That Girl by Blair Thornburgh revolves around the life of Nattie McCullough who’s life takes a turn as a song with her namesake by an up and coming band headed by a boy who used to go to her high school grows and gains traction.
Sebastian Delacroix’s band and their song “Natalie” starts to spread across the internet, and Nattie doesn’t know what to do. What’s worse is that she used to have a crush on him, especially with that almost-kiss incident at a party.
Nattie has to deal with boy drama and the fact that her best friend Tess is obsessing over the very-long-acronym-that-starts-with-an-O Dance which their Gay Straight Alliance has taken over. Nattie’s in for a hectic ride on finding out who she really is.
Here’s the official summary:
Junior Nattie McCullough is totally OK with her place in life: Latin whiz. Member of the school’s gay-straight alliance. Joni Mitchell superfan. Seventeen-year-old who has never been kissed. So when last summer’s crush and her former classmate—Young Lungs lead singer Sebastian Delacroix—comes back to town with his new hit single “Natalie,” she can’t bring herself to believe it could possibly be about her…could it?
As Nattie sorts through the evidence (the lyrics, Sebastian’s elusive text messages, and their brief romantic encounter last year), the song’s popularity skyrockets, and everyone starts speculating about “Natalie’s” identity. If that wasn’t mortifying enough, Nattie runs into another problem: her confusing, flirtation-packed feelings for her good friend Zach. With her once-average life upended, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her short-lived past with Sebastian was something love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.
If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be quirky. And not in a necessarily 100% positive or 100% negative way. Just quirky.
I mostly liked reading it, but there’s just a few points that were off to me.
For one, Nattie is a very odd character. I had a hard time relating to her and wasn’t a big fan of how she acted and some of her decisions. She’s very concerned with seeming weird by her classmates, which in turn makes her weirder. Sometimes I wanted her to just take a chill pill, relax, and stop worrying about other people.
You can see how much it influences her opinions and how she acts because she’s always very hesitant and there’s a ton of awkward pauses, but not in a Mary Sue Good Girl type of way.
She’s not particularly talented, can be a little condescending, and is a terrible treasurer.
One of my biggest peeves about her character is how she calls the woman in the poem she’s translating from Latin as “slutty.” I’m sorry, but that’s a no in my book. Slut shaming and girl on girl hate is not acceptable.
One of her friends & potential love interests, Zach the Anarchist (there are two Zachs, Zach the Anarchist and Tall Zach) shuts her down quickly which gave him huge points in my mind. Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
It also annoys me that she’s a terrible treasurer and undeserving of the title as she has barely any passion about the club except for her friends. This is something I can really relate to because it’s terrible to see unqualified people in positions of power (not gonna say anything about the government) when there are so many other qualified people there. Club competition can be FIERCE; I know from personal experience.
If I was in the GSA Nattie’s in, I would have been very mad that she only has the position because her best friend is the president.
She’s also very underappreciate for a large part of the novel. Nattie has a wonderful family and an awesome foreign exchange student foster brother, Sam, yet she doesn’t spend very much time with them. Her dad is a fun character, and she doesn’t actively try to do any father-daughter bonding as he builds a yurt (don’t ask).
Nattie still has some pluses as her narration is very interesting and she’s got a dry sense of humor, though sometimes it comes at others’ expense.
She eventually grows as a character and becomes a better as well as more likeable person, but for the first 70% I wasn’t too fond of her.
There’s a fine line an author has to balance on for making a character. The character can’t be too perfect, or else they wouldn’t be dynamic. On the other hand, making characters that aren’t appealing to the reader will cause a lot of people to DNF it and move on to read something else. This can be summed up really nicely in the tweet I saw a few days ago:
Create sympathy & likeable aspects of character early on. THEN bring in the flaws. If u intro flaws 2 early, readers may not stay on (4/12)
— Whitney Davis (@wdavisliterary) August 3, 2017
In Who’s That Girl, I felt like Nattie leaned toward the unlikeable side a little more. She’s not very enthusiastic and is very apathetic, superficial teenager-ish. This was what caused a whole star to be removed because I just could not relate to her.
Despite this, the rest of the story was really fun to read. I loved all the side characters, and she has such a fun group of friends. They make up the Acronymphomaniacs (I hope I spelled that right) and are all part of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA for short).
Tess is Nattie’s fun best friend who’s obsessed with the Coming Out Dance because it’ll help her come out to her parents that she likes girls. I honestly would have enjoyed this story so much more if it was about Tess because she’s such an interesting character.
Zach the Anarchist (also potential love interest) is cute, not really an anarchist, smart, and very in like with Nattie. He’s probably my second favorite character besides Tess because he’s so nice. He’s kind and sweet and caring and intelligent and everything you would want in a boyfriend, even after sitting through unrequited like for quite a while. He’s also got a very cute sense of style with flannel, so brownie points to him!
I like how Thornburgh shows that your male love interest doesn’t have to be that bad boy cigarette holding cliché leaning on a motorcycle (not that many people use that anymore). Zach the Anarchist is a mix of nerdy and cute and very relatable.
The last person of Nattie’s friend group is Tall Zach who we don’t really learn much of and is kind of the fourth wheel. I wish we got to know more about him, but he wasn’t very important in general, to the plot or anything else.
I did like how the characters were dynamic as Nattie, Tess, and Zach the Anarchist all grew as people, Nattie most of all. I was scared for some time because I had so little faith in Nattie that I thought she would make the wrong decision. I just couldn’t relate to her, but she ended up becoming more likeable as she grew throughout the novel.
The plot was interesting enough as this is a more character-based novel that uses the plot to further the characters vs. the other way around. Thornburgh introduced new settings and paced it moderately.
She did, however, create a very nice voice for Nattie, which is something I liked. All the characters are uniquely them, and you can usually tell who’s speaking without the need for dialogue tags. The character development was probably the best part, even though I didn’t like Nattie very much.
I found the entire novel pretty realistic as they didn’t do anything too outlandish and stayed within their realistic fiction realms, and the LGBTQ+ representation was awesome.
I originally picked this up from the library because of the pretty cover. It’s very fitting, and it has a paper-y texture like A List of Cages. I didn’t get the ombre warm colored hair until later since Nattie has fire-y red hair, and the hair on the cover is very fire-y. The typography is stunning (I forgot to write down who did the hand-done type from the back cover, but a big shoutout to them!), and there’s a cute little strawberry on the side as Nattie’s allergic to strawberries. The cover fits the book very nicely, and I might just buy the book just because of the cover, which grows on me everyday. Maybe I’ll ask for it as a gift?
Overall, Who’s That Girl was a very unique read that I would classify as coming-of-age due to Nattie’s large amount of character growth. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, contemporary novel with romance on the back burner!
Have you read Who’s That Girl? What did you think? Feel free to leave your comments below!