Nerds and Beyond Book Club: ‘Girl Mans Up’ by M-E Girard

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Image courtesy of M-E Girard at

Welcome to our interactive Nerds and Beyond Book Club series! For August, we will be reading Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard. The book has won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult (YA) literature and was a finalist for the White Pine Award, William C. Morris YA Debut Award, and Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

Here is a summary as it appears on the back of the book:

“All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy — that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth — that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.”

The main character and narrator of the story Pen captured my attention from the beginning, making it challenging to put the book down. Pen had to deal and come to terms with a lot throughout the story: being a female gamer, coming from a traditional family, toxic friendships, new friendships, and a romantic relationship. The story’s ending lends itself to allow for more, but there were no dreaded clifhangers to worry about.

I enjoyed the bonus content, especially the Q & A with the author. It provides more insight to the main character and an explanation to the title of the book. The other bonus content included are Girard’s reading list, an additional scene between Pen and her brother, and fan art.

I do want to offer a content warning for brief descriptions of abortion, sexual assault, and language.

M-E Girard lives just outside Toronto, Ontario. There, she spends her time writing and working as a pediatric nurse. Girard is a feminist who is fascinated by the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the concept of gender. You can find more information online about M-E Girard and her work on her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

To participate in our Nerds and Beyond Book Club, send an email to with “Book Club” in the subject line. We’ll be emailing out discussion questions that will be posted in an article at the end of the month.

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By Sarah
As a Ravenclaw and introverted tattooed cat, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, and watching hockey (Go Leafs Go). You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @WyldeFandom
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