When Brooks volunteered to be a stand-in for Burdette’s cousin who got stood up for Homecoming, it was with the noblest of intentions-helping a fellow human being, free of charge. But when he gets a tip of more than three hundred bucks, word spreads quickly and Brooks seizes the opportunity to offer his impeccable escort services to super-wealthy parents who want their daughters to experience those big social events of senior year.
Besides, Brooks could use the cash to hire a tutor to get admitted to Columbia University. So what if along the way he goes along with a few minor deceptions and cuts a few moral corners? What could be the harm?
I picked up The Stand-In expecting a witty, uplifting book that would be a fairly quick read and make me laugh out loud — what I got was quite the opposite. There were some aspects of this novel that I liked, however the overwhelming feeling I got while reading it was that it was a sexist novel that portrayed women to be superficial, dull, and only appreciated for their appearance. Additionally, the plot felt repetitive and I despised our main character, Brooks. Unfortunately, The Stand-In failed to meet my expectations and I was left less than unimpressed.
The thing I hated most about The Stand-In is that it painted teenage girls as superficial and wanting nothing more than to have someone to go to prom with them. For someone who has gone to two out of two of her high school dances with a group of friends even when I was in a relationship, I felt it was unnecessary to portray these girls to be sad and pathetic because they didn’t have a date. The idea that women should have to be accompanied by a male to dances is honestly archaic and I hated how these teenage girls were sexualised by our main character. It was quite vile to be in his mind sometimes and I despised the way he viewed women almost as a commodity.
In the beginning, I did quite like Brooks — but that was until I got to know him better. At first, I admired his ambition and desire to go to a good college, and I could understand the frustration of struggling to be the best in order to achieve your dreams. However, I didn’t like the way he joked about killing himself if he didn’t get into the right school because it felt inconsiderate to people who suffer from depression as he was clearly a middle class, straight cis white male whose only problems in life were trying to get into the best college and getting with the hottest girl. His constant whining about the girls he took to prom for money disgusted me and I failed to empathise with him at all.
Perhaps the only marginally redeemable aspect of this novel was the character Celia, a girl who has no interest in her parents living vicariously through her and who refuses to make it easy for Brooks to earn his pay cheque by taking her to prom. She was feisty and gave Brooks exactly what he deserved, which was very relieving because honestly, if I had to listen to his condescending, sexist ramblings for one more page, I probably would have hurled this book into the ocean. Celia was somewhat strong and the independent female character I was looking for, but any of her admirable qualities were overshadowed by Brooks’ infatuation with some hot girl he wanted a bit of action with.
Ultimately, The Stand-In was a relatively sexist, repetitive novel that consisted of middle-class whining, the objectification of women and portraying teenage girls as superficial and only caring about who they go to prom with. This novel was seriously lacking the strong female characters not only who I love, but who girls need to read about in a world that is often judgemental and coveys that we should care about our aesthetic beauty for the sake of onlookers. If you’re looking for a book to read with strong feminist messages, I highly recommend reading Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford.
Have you read The Stand-In? Did you enjoy it? Did you find it problematic in any ways? What books would you recommend that have strong female characters? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Walker Books Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!