May Contain Spoilers
This is the third novel of Gwen Heasley’s that I’ve read. I enjoyed it, too, with just a few caveats. The first being that I felt Don’t Call Me Baby is written for a younger a audience than her previous works, but then again, maybe that’s because Imogen isn’t from the same privileged background that Corinne is from. Imogen doesn’t have Corinne’s sense of entitlement, or her abrasive personality. Definitely a plus! The other reservation, and this is by no means negative – I am a blogger, so I could see both sides of Imogen’s conundrum, as well as her mother’s. This made it easier for me to sympathize with both of them, but if you have no interest in blogging, some aspects of the story might bore you.
Imogen is excited to start 9th grade, and at 15, she is determined to finally take back her privacy. Her mom is a popular mommy blogger, and Imogen, AKA Babylicious, is the star of the blog. Ever since she was born, she has been the featured topic of the blog. Her mom shares every aspect of her life with her readers, and Imogen is tired of it. She’s teased at school, she has no secrets, and she doesn’t appreciate the way her mom spins every coming of age moment for the entertainment of her blog fans. Her mother’s happiness is measured in website clicks, and Imogen wants it to end. Pronto. Because her mom is so caught up in her blogging and growing her stats, there is an ever growing distance between them. Is her mom genuinely interested in her troubles, or is she going to make them the topic of her next blog post?
At least she has her BFF to lean on. Sage’s mom is also a blogger. Her blog is about healthy lifestyles and begin vegan, so Sage isn’t allowed to eat foods the rest of us take for granted. Her mom constantly tries out new recipes, feeds them to Sage, and blogs about the experience. Sage hates it. If it wasn’t for her beloved piano, she would go nuts. Instead, she’s forced to sneak off to the mall for binges in the food court.
When the girls are given an assignment in English class to write a blog, they are resistant at first. Then they realize that it’s the perfect way to get back at their moms. They will tell them how they really feel about having their privacy stolen from them, in a public place, and hope to shame their moms into immediately stop posting about them. What they didn’t count on was the backlash from their moms, which threatens both their friendship and their relationships with their mothers.
Don’t Call Me Baby is really about a young woman trying to take back her voice. Her mom is very enthusiastic about her blog and about engaging with her readers, and she doesn’t stop to think that she’s invading her daughter’s privacy. Because of the popularity of the blog, Imogen just wants to fade into the background. She doesn’t like being the center of attention. She hates it. That’s what she’s trying to put a stop to. She just wants to be a normal teenager, with normal teenage problems, without her mom’s blog subscribers being involved in every major life decision involving her upbringing. I would have balked at that, too!
There are times when Imogen’s protest goes a little too far. I was seriously concerned that she was going to make a major, major mistake near the end of the book. Because both Imogen and her mom have become deaf to each other’s words, she does make a few missteps in an attempt to make her mom understand her feelings. She has lost the ability to have a meaningful conversation with her mom, and it takes a touching moment in a public place for her to finally understand that her mom has reasons for acting the way she does. Imogen grew up so much after her mother’s revelation, and I liked her so much better for it.
I enjoyed the secondary characters, too, especially Imogen’s grandmother. I also liked Imogen’s resolve to disconnect for a while, so she can regain her perspective on life. In today’s connected world, everyone seems more interested in doing anything other than talking, which led to most of her conflict. She also had a major falling out with Sage, because Imogen realized that their tactics were not working, and she didn’t want to aggravate her mom just for the sake of aggravating her. She knew when to call it quits and launch another plan of attack. Sage was just so angry at her mother, and by extension, at Imogen, that she keep getting more and more stubborn with her protest.
Don’t Call Me Baby is an enjoyable read. Though it’s character based, it moves along at a fast clip, and I had a hard time putting it down. I kept worrying about what Imogen was going to do to get her mother’s attention, and it was nerve-wracking at times! If you liked Gwen’s previous books, you’ll like this one, and if you enjoy books about conflict resolution, this will work for you, too.
Review copy provided by publisher
Perfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, Don’t Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and our online selves and the truth you can only see in real life.
All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on that blog.
Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. The thing is, Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her. In gruesome detail. When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online . . . until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to define herself for the first time.