You know those type of books where you really can’t seem to put ’em down? One more chapter, which turns into two more, than three more, than you see that two hours have passed, and you’re nearly done with it. Twenty-seven year-old author Michelle Manning has written just that type of book: “Siding With Plato.” This coming of age: the college years story hooks you, and Manning knows how to reel you in.
Brooke Aarons from So Cal decides to go off to the University of Texas to become a psychologist. She can’t wait to get away from her small town, and to embark on her academic and career path. Once she gets to the University of Texas, she becomes best buds with three girls in her dorm: Stella, Darci, and Kate. Brooke also finds herself doing some serious crushing on James, a rich football star. The book follows their relationship, and the best friends’ hilarious first year of college. Manning easily pulls you into their minds, and keeps you there, begging for more.
This all being said, I actually didn’t love the book. Manning obviously has talent, but I found her characters and their actions a bit far-fetched. I realize that my college life was an extremely chill one, scant of parties and drinking. However, the synopsis of the book is misleading, to say the least. Brooke is hardly an ultra-studious student if she can manage to go out multiple times a week, while recovering from the partying on Sundays. I realize she is a freshman, but as the back of the book describes Brooke’s ambitious plans to be a “brilliant psychologist” with no college “distractions,” I was prepared for a different character.
Also disturbing about this book are how boy-girl interactions and relationships are viewed. Brooke’s mom is so worried that her daughter doesn’t have a boyfriend by the end of her first semester of college that she encourages Brooke to date the family dentist. Brooke’s shy dorm roommate, Sophie, is a character portrayed as quiet and awkward, and this is used as evidence for why she doesn’t have a boyfriend. Besides this, the four best friends’ main motivation to do anything appears to be boys. Whether to party with them, date them, have sex with them, or to avoid them, many of the girls’ actions are based off of men.
There are a few other issues I have with the book. Girl-on-girl hate, and the apparent hilarity and shame of calling someone fat. This is perhaps the least women-empowering book that I have come across, and it is especially surprising given the year it was written (2013). Besides my issues with it, the book is entertaining, and the 302 pages breeze by. If you just want to read something light then this is a good choice, but watch out for the boy-crazy attitude of the characters.
Michelle Manning is already in the works for a sequel, which makes sense and she certainly left the door wide open with the ending of “Siding With Plato.” The sophomore year of Brooke, Kate, Stella, and Darci will probably be just as carefree as their first year.
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