Date Started: 9th August 2020
Date Finished: 16th August 2020
Days Taken to Read: 8 days
“Tuesday 4th September
Ways that I, Kat Evans, am going to be an excellent feminist this term:”
Diary of a Confused Feminist is written as the diary of Kat Evans. A British teenager who alongside the challenges of GCSEs decides that she would like to improve on being a feminist – whilst juggling to determine quite what a feminist is.
I will preface this review by advising that I did receive an ARC via Netgalley… which I unintentionally forgot I had and subsequently borrowed from the Library. As such, my review is based on the finished copy and my honest opinion.
Kate Weston very much presents this story as a comedy, very early on our heroine Kat and her friends fail to complete their #TimesUp campaign at the school, and only end up encouraging the attentions of the somewhat creepy class mate Tim, (aka #Tim). There are several further calamities that early on made a little worried that this story could end up being a little one note. (After all, a lot of comedic books/shows/films focus on the most clumsy of people who no matter what seem to worsen their own circumstances to a point that leaves me squirming with second hand embarrassment).
In reality I think the entry point to this novel is there to trick you (in the best way), into a false sense of “I’ve seen this clumsy girl before” until it hits you in the chest with quite some force the real message of this story. For which I will say, anyone picking this story, please be aware there may be some triggers for mental health.
SO, I will start with a few critiques I had with the story before I delve deep into why I gave this story such a high rating. It does fall into some tropes, there is the sworn enemy who goes out of their way to bully/bother Kat, the unbelievably stunning BFFS compared to our “unskilled, average looking” protagonist (although I would argue this is probably how a lot of teenage girls feel about their friends, versus themselves. I know I felt like that as a teenager anyway).
Also the diary format and text messages may not work for everyone as some sections are quite short or a little rambling – but again, I have been reading a bigger variety of formats recently so this didn’t bother me personally.
Whilst I may agree with anyone saying elements of this story were a little predictable, it didn’t bother me because I felt it was so well written, and the real winner for me? The mental health representation. I won’t go too deeply into the ins and outs of that section of the plot, because it does come further along in the story. But it felt so well written and didn’t shy from the isolation, the guilt and confusion that emerging mental health issues can cause.
As a now 27 year old adult, I have had a while now to make friends with my own anxiety and low mood disorder, I know how to spot it, I can in some ways manage it better. I have also worked with University students experiencing mental health challenges, so it is a topic I am familiar with now. But I remember being 15/16 years old and not understanding why I felt some of the ways I felt, and being terrified to talk to people about it, because it already makes your feel ‘other’. Kate Weston actually made me cry a bit reading sections of this story, but in a cathartic way, it felt so good that this story was presenting a realistic image of something so many teens experience and often do not know how to deal with it.
This wasn’t the only topic that the story covered, and I appreciated it managed to bring some facts about various topics into the narrative. But for me personally, I know what part of this story really stuck with me, and I imagine it will do going forward.
TLDR? Funny coming of age contemporary managed to make me shed tears at it’s relatable mental health story line.