Graham had just moved into the city when he met Ethan, who changed his life by taking Graham in and teaching him everything he knows about picking up girls.
Trigger Warning: Sexism, Misogyny, Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Harassment, Underage Drinking, Manipulation and Hate Speech.
I give this book 0 stars (out of five). This is sexism in a book, honestly that’s the best way I could describe it. From the title to the entire plot consisting around objectifying women, there is nothing that is redeeming about this book. Even with the logic that this is a fictional story and all the language and content isn’t a representation of the author’s beliefs, the language and behaviour that is shown and glorified in this book are beyond sexist, beyond misogynistic and downright predatory.
This book’s excuse of a story follows Graham Fox as he moves from a small town into a big city, his long term girlfriend had recently dumped him and got with his best friend so he wasn’t in a good space when it came to romantic relationships.
[Spoiler Warning, if you don’t want spoilers you should stop reading now. But I would highly recommend not reading this book, so you can just keep reading to see why instead.]
At his new school he meets Ethan the school’s popular asshole, Ethan decides to be friends with Graham and takes him out as his wingman. For the rest of the book Ethan teaches Graham how to pick up women and his techniques backfire when Graham genuinely falls in love with a girl named Raine but he’s been using a fake identity the entire time they knew each other. Eventually she finds out he lied about everything and their relationship falls apart.
That’s it, that’s the book.
There are so many things wrong with it. The most obvious is how this book literally presents itself as a Misogynist Manifesto and teaches Graham and the reader how to objectify, sexualize and use women, often underage girls specifically. I have no idea how this was ever published even in 2016 this type of behaviour, hate speech and blatant discrimination should never be acceptable, let alone romantisized as it is here.
As this is so obviously wrong and the most apparent problem I’m now going to address a few other issues, so even if you are sexist you can still tell that this book is awful regardless. I never thought I’d give any book a score below 1 star and there was absolutely nothing I could give this book credit for even if I was being generous.
First of all, besides all the other degrading, dehumanizing and generally terrible language used to talk about women there is never once mentioned even the slightest possibility of anyone who has any gender identity besides cisgender. Throughout the entire story they assume all female presenting people are women.
Secondly, I saw this book and decided to read it knowing that with the title it was probably full of sexism because in the synapse it says, “Until he comes across someone who challenges everything Ethan taught him.” And me, being naïve, thought maybe this could mean he met someone who taught how not to objectify women, or he met a girl who didn’t take his bad treatment and changed his mind, or even (most optimistically) that he met someone who isn’t cisgender and they taught him how to respect all people and not be a danger to society.
But unfortunately for everyone involved, I was wrong. The only thing that happened was he hurt a girl’s feelings and experienced heartbreak, no consequences for treating dozens of women horribly, no lesson that sexism is bad, nothing. Just ‘the worst pain he’s ever experienced’ even though he brought it entirely on himself and deserves a lot worse for letting himself be absorbed into a world where women are only seen as sexual objects and pieces in a game. You could say that Graham learned everything from Ethan, but Graham is a high school senior and he can think for himself, he can make his own decisions and he decided to be a misogynist who uses women and has no remorse except for when it comes back to bite him.
Thirdly, the entire character of Ethan is a problem. Aside from the fact that he is a close minded imbecile who thinks women are expendable, the author attempts to justify his actions and give him some sort of messed up motivation. Because a girl broke his heart a long time ago he has learned to never get close to a woman and just dump her first before he can be hurt. While this is a response that lots of people have to bad relationships or breakups, most people just don’t get into another relationship.
But Ethan decides that because one woman broke his heart they all deserve to be treated as lesser citizens and hardly even as people. I could understand it if Ethan’s character was shown as an example of bigotry or that there are people who won’t change their viewpoint, but he’s portrayed as a misunderstood rich white guy. Although I don’t think anyone in their right mind would see him that way when he is very obviously a predator.
And the next huge issue is another act of male superiority, from beginning to end heartbreak for a man is portrayed as the worst possible thing. The worst pain they’ve ever been in or even the worst time of their lives. Yet they have no problem inflicting the exact same feelings on dozens of girls, because to them those girls’ feelings don’t matter. Nothing about the girls matter except what the men can gain from exploiting or using them. Ethan even does things specifically to take money from and hurt women every chance he gets, he does it on purpose and is proud of it.
And yet another issue is that while there are many characters who know about Ethan and his behaviour towards women, not a single male character stops him or even suggests that what he’s doing isn’t right. According to all the guys this is normal, and girls are even viewed as crazy, hysterical and annoying for trying to warn Graham that Ethan is terrible. Some girls are even portrayed as violent or aggressive because they (reasonably) hate Ethan so much.
And lastly I want to share my opinions on the romance between Graham and Raine, personally I am of the opinion that since the relationship is built on lies with the intent to manipulate her into a romantic/sexual context and because Graham approached her partly to win Ethan’s game; everything that initially seemed meaningful is now meaningless. What’s the point of having deep conversations with someone if they’ve been lying to you for months?
I think the ending was terrible, whether or not Graham got a second chance is entirely up to Raine. I don’t think he deserves it but that’s her decision, I think that Raine deserves to know why he lied and everything else he did because it’s a hell of a lot easier to forgive a guy for lying to you than it is to forgive him for manipulating countless other girls. I think the only real reason that they got back together is for a happy ending and to reward Graham for feeling guilty about being a misogynist and cheating on Raine.
No, he is not a good person for feeling bad about doing bad things, that makes him decent at best. He didn’t stop, he kept doing all those bad things and never changed his mind about them being bad, he just stopped when he eventually got tired. Graham is not a redeemable character and the fact that he gets the girl at the end of the day just shows that you can treat a girl terribly but she’ll still want you because she’s a girl and all she could ever want is romance.
Okay now that we’re past all the other issues let’s get back to the main one, the terrible treatment and language used toward women. Here are way too many examples and any additional explanation or commentary when needed. (Keep in mind this is after editing this section down).
- “You’d better get going before you start crying like you’re playing on the girls’ basketball team.” (pg. 8) This assumes that all women are emotional and useless, specifically when it comes to sports which are stereotypically masculine.
- This is the first and far from the last instance of Ethan and Graham rating girls visually on a scale from 1-10. I couldn’t bookmark every time they did because it was used so often, literally countless times. Also when asked to describe his ‘type’ Graham immediately started describing appearance. (pg. 23)
- “Are you actually a girl?” Ethan asks, upon finding out Graham likes rom-coms. (pg. 33)
- Ethan’s explanation and justification for being terrible to women is that all relationships probably won’t last so why waste time and get hurt, when you can hurt everyone first instead? (pg. 41)
- Ethan compares girls to animals, calls them prey and tells Graham they’re hunting them. (pg. 43) This is another recurring thing that happens multiple times, unfortunately.
- Ethan explains how pretty girls don’t go out to have fun, but to reject guys. That is the only reason they left the house, to reject guys and purposely bruise their egos. (pg. 45) There is no chance that they just wanted to go out and enjoy themselves. Women don’t do things for themselves, everything they do is about men because women are incapable of thinking for themselves.
- “That was a good strategy separating them like that.” Ethan commented, when watching other guys hit on girls (pg. 46).
- Ethan proceeds to get older and intimidating men to make physical advancements towards these women and swoop in to save them when they get scared. Later he purposely scares them with the possibly of sexual violence if they don’t stay with Ethan and Graham. (Starting on pg. 47). It’s especially bad because he lures the girls into a false sense of security since they think the boys are on their side and helping them when in reality they are just as dangerous.
- Ethan uses sexism as a punchline. Graham: “Your mother doesn’t cook?” Ethan: “How incredibly sexist of you to assign that role to my mother and not my father.” (pg. 61) This is coming from someone who has already rated girls, referred to them as prey and stole money from a girl. Just a little infuriating hypocrisy, it’s interesting that sexism exists when it can be used to serve Ethan’s purposes and that this is the only time it’s ever mentioned.
- “What they lacked in numbers they made up for in intensity.” Says Graham’s inner monologue about girls confronting Ethan (pg. 69).
- Ethan thinks he “did a favor to mankind” by taking money from a woman. (pg. 72) His logic is that he’s teaching them that they aren’t special and not to go around breaking men’s hearts. Oh the irony.
- Also (on pg. 73) there’s a meta line about Ethan writing a book about all of his encounters with women and naming it, “The Art of Picking Up Girls.” Honestly? This book does not have the right to try to be funny and self aware when it’s so offensive and harmful and this could imply that the author relates to Ethan.
- Ethan takes Graham to a support group for people who are or have family who are suffering from addiction. They make up stories and pick up girls. (pg. 84) I’m not sure if the women in this book were based on real women or not, because it seems like a sexual fantasy where women are always 100% focused on the men around them.
- Ethan stood up a girl without a second thought and then got out of a bad situation by lying about having the dates wrong, only to reassure her it was a mistake and make plans again. While never intending to show up and stand her up again. (pg. 87)
- Ethan explains to Graham that the girl was clearly using him to get into an expensive restaurant, insists that he did nothing wrong and tells Graham he is an innocent bystander. But at any point Graham could’ve stepped in and told the girls the truth or called Ethan out for his generalizations of women and general misogyny. (pg. 93) Ethan also either has a god complex because he thinks it’s up to him to teach lessons to people or thinks women are so far beneath him that it’s his civic duty, I’m not even sure which is worse.
- “Do you realize that a five and two twos does not make a nine?” “She’s at least a seven.” “She loses two points for her choice of footwear.” (pg. 99)
- “I think a handshake from a seven is better than hugs from a couple of twos.” (pg. 111)
- A potential relationship between Graham’s younger sister who’s in 8th grade and Ethan, a high school senior, is mentioned. (pg. 121) Yikes.
- “She’s probably worthy of a Wednesday, or even a Thursday, but she’s not Friday or Saturday material.” Ethan says about Raine (pg. 158). This is how Ethan values women, it’s clear they are not people to him. And Graham then has to make it up to Ethan for making him waste his time on girls that aren’t attractive enough to be worth his time. The entitlement and dehumanization of women is actually concerning.
- During a scene (on pg. 253) Graham is comforting Ethan and outright insists that he is a good person, even knowing everything that Ethan’s done. And when Ethan acknowledges that hundreds of girls would disagree, Graham dismisses their thoughts and opinions immediately because what women think doesn’t matter. It only matters when men think. Even when Graham is confronting Ethan and telling him that his ideas and theories are wrong, “Just because you were hurt doesn’t give you the right to hurt others.” Not only was there still subtle sexism in this scene but this is the stuff that Graham could’ve noticed upon meeting Ethan not after being heavily influenced by him for the entire story.
- Also at one point Ethan randomly invited himself into Graham’s room and watched him sleep? I have no idea what that was about but it makes him scarier.
I hate that Ethan as a character is redeemed so much because it doesn’t excuse everything he did, your best friend who is also a man, telling you that even though you’re sexist you’re still a good person; does not make you a good person or justify your actions. This book approaches the topic of sexism so wrong, it’s nearly comical in the saddest possible way.
The ironic part is that if the characters could read my criticism of their actions they probably wouldn’t even care to learn why they’re fundamentally misogynistic, because I’m a woman. I have to pray that they’d listen to other guys and even that is the absolute bare minimum (and that’s not even discussing identities other than cisgender).
Even if this was purely fiction the language, behaviour and assumptions towards women are not acceptable at all, in any context and the fact that young men might’ve read this and taken any of it seriously is so beyond problematic. The problem with the portrayal of this behaviour is that it is never shown as a bad thing unless it negatively impacts the male protagonist, it is okay to treat women like dirt, animals and prizes to be won. But when that backfires and hurts you, a man who is a real person, whose emotions, needs and wants are valued; then it matters.
This book disgusts me and I don’t think I’ve ever been more offended by a piece of fictional writing.