Tuesday, September 9, 2014

REVIEW: Girl Code by LayAtHomeMom

Some stories have such a big following that it’s hard to remember where you first heard about them because every-freaking-body you know is reading them.  They're the stories that are recognized by initials or stand-apart details and are immediately connected to an author's name. They get you talking, screaming, and swooning about fic, and often become the standard by which other stories are compared. These are those stories.

We've invited three guest reviewers to share their thoughts on some of our recent ‘we can’t stop talking about them’ favorites.

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Girl Code by LayAtHomeMom
Friends are forever, boys are whatever - unless it's Edward Cullen. Then the gloves come off. 

Rochelle Allison~

So, I’d been hearing about Girl Code for a while before I actually read it. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, based on comments I heard - I think I assumed it was more angsty than I was in the mood for. I mean, I love angst, but I have to be in the right mindset. Finally, though, after hearing my friends go on and on (and on) I felt left out and thought dammit I need to read this.

Well. Was I ever wrong. There is some angst...but it’s more like (for real, not contrived) teen drama. And more than drama, it’s FUNNY. There are moments that sting, but they’re almost always soothed by snark. Like, I sit here cackling in malicious glee at the antics and comments of the main characters. The writing is cuttingly clever, the dialog snappy and genuine.

Alec especially - I could be here all day quoting his gems. Last chapter alone had me in hysterics:

“Aww. That turn the other cheek bullshit is really adorable, Hannah Montana.”

“Get up girl, shit just got real,” he says, plopping down on my bed.Panicked, I sit up quickly. “Huh? Where?”His eyes get big, and he puts a finger under his nose. “Ugh, in your mouth. Go brush.”

Lol. I die.

Anyway, a friend of mine thinks that there are a lot of Alices in life/the fandom, and while that might be true to an extent, I think there’s a lot of *all* the characters. Every single one of us has been the gossiper, or the gossiped about - the perp, the victim, the bitch, the saint. We all get it, because we’ve been there. There was no social media when I was in high school (MySpace became a thing when I was in my twenties), but the dynamics were the same - and still are. I mean, the story even starts with moms gossiping in the beauty shop. Classic.

And that’s why this fic hits home. It is so spot on.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, because I want so very badly for you to read this. It’s not that long, and honestly, the plot moves so swiftly. Suffice to say our girl Bella falls for her BFF’s new step brother...who also happens to be another friend’s crush. What should she do?
Hence, “(the) Girl Code”.


High school. Those two words often send shivers down the spines of many as memories of teenhood come flooding back. And while I have many happy memories of my teen years, there are a multitude of situations that I can do without remembering ever again. Those painful recollections are left submerged beneath the surface, drowned completely in the perfect world. Unfortunately for most of us, the imperfectness of buoyant reminders, lingering psychological turmoil, and fake-friend inspired disappointments trump our desires to forget, so they float to the surface when we read, see, hear, or feel something that we can relate to from those trying situations in our personal history.

That's why I'm so grateful that Girl Code, written by LayAtHomeMom, offers more depth than many teen stories I've read in the past. Lay so thoroughly builds up each developing situation with expressive fleshing out and a true attention to detail, her “teens” are entertaining, authentic, and relatable. Despite my previous hesitations to read All Human/Alternate Universe adolescent fics, Girl Code is written with capable maturity. Lay's snarky style lends an authentic tone to each chapter, making the reading experience free from the recollective influence of the bite of my own teenhood memories, and because she consistently uses her “stage direction” so thoroughly, it makes a huge difference in the reader's experience.

In chapter one, the descriptions of body language and non-verbal glances and movements in the beauty salon form the emotional flesh for the readers to establish what the characters are like, how they act, and the depth of their relationships. Then in chapter nine, when the readers find themselves back in the salon, it becomes apparent how brilliantly Lay has developed her skill of subtle guidance. The non-verbal cues revealed at the beginning of the story heighten the underlining drama and deeper layers of Bella's developing convictions as she tries to continue navigating the gray area of possible social suicide while still trying to abide by the unspoken girl code that many readers will no doubt remember from their own experiences. How Bella evaluates her mother's glances and fitful silences, the looks the characters exchange in the mirrors, the sighs, the avoidance of words and body movements so succinctly express what's unfolding – every scene and motivation are clear based on the stage set, with no annoying ambiguity to taint my enjoyment of what's happening in every chapter. That evolution of tricky, suffocating, and blossoming relationships forming and breaking as the chapters progress in Girl Code make it a fabulous read.

Lay's mature approach to the way that the characters relate to each other regardless of the ages, missteps, and decisions of the characters are softened by the inclusion of the adult character's perspectives too. This is something else that I have grown to truly appreciate in Girl Code. The scenes that take place in the salon are among my favorites for that reason. The adults, while gossipy and sometimes cutting, allow the reader to mentally partake in their open and occasional veiled discussions about emotional boundaries, bad choices, and how important friendships are. They also add a mature “voice” to the undercurrent of the plot, showing how challenging relationships can be at any age. It's like the adults are illustrating their own mature version (and sometimes judgment) of the “code,” and the reader senses those nuances so tangibly in this story, adding to the depth of the reading experience.

I love to hate the Alice in Girl Code, and I love to LOVE the Edward in this story. He's ballsy, plants and waters Bella's deep-seeded accession of doubtful friendships, motives, and manipulations. He's the impetus that makes her question why she is following the girl code when it goes against the fluttering-whispers of her heart. Will life-long relationships survive? Or perhaps the better question to ask is should they, given how self-centered and poisonous some of these catty adolescents are?  Teenhood ethics can be sketchy at best, the methods of navigation clumsy and off course. I can't wait to find out what that girl code means to the characters in this story, and how that ambiguous code will be followed...or not!

Jenny Kate~

One thing I have always loved about Lay’s stories is the way she uses pop culture.  She gives you these relatable topics and cultural cues that suck you right into the story.

Girl Code – Don’t gossip.  Just call it like you see it.  #keepitreal

Her stories are always laugh-out-loud funny, with these fantastic lines that stick with you long after the chapter is over.

“Get up girl, shit just got real,” he says, plopping down on my bed.

Panicked, I sit up quickly.  “Huh?  Where?”

His eyes get big, and he puts a finger under his nose.  “Ugh, in your mouth.  Go brush.”

This story is set in high school, where the backhanded compliments and sugar-coated cut-downs flow freely.  Once again, Lay tosses together an interesting cast of characters:  Alice the queen bitch, Victoria the frenemy, Rose the BFF, and Alec the gay BFF.   Quite a bit of the story takes place at a beauty shop that is run by Esme and Renee.  If you know anything about beauty shops, you know that they are gossip central.  So, needless to say, there is never a dull moment.  Add in the drama of high school and finding new love, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for awesomeness.

Girl Code – Never cockblock a friend.  #dontbethatgirl

Edward happens to be the shiny new toy and Bella isn’t the only one who’s attracted to him.  So, how far will she go to get what she wants?  Where does the Girl Code end?

Girl Code – Never EVER flirt with the object of your friend’s affections.  #trifflin’

Bella soon figures out that keeping a secret is harder than she ever imagined.

My back hits the door just as his bag falls to the ground.  With his eyes on my lips, he leans down and palms my face.  We hesitate for only a split-second before our mouths collide.

His lips move over mine, kissing me roughly and groaning into my mouth as he presses his weight against me.  Our eyes lock for a moment when he sucks my tongue hard and drags his teeth over my bottom lip.  He holds it there like a hostage, a subtle reminder that he’s there and waiting in the balance.  I swipe my tongue over my lip, soothing the sting when he kisses down my neck, licking and nipping as he goes, leaving me a panting mess.

Outside the crowd roars and stomps in time with the building drumbeat.  The sound pounds in my ears, and my heart crashes against my ribs as his hands slip lower and lower down my body.  Gripping my leg, he lifts and hooks it around his waist.  He claims my mouth again, the desperation in the kiss making my lips ache.  Pulling away, he buries his face into my neck.

“Touch me,” I beg, reaching for his hand.

“Tell her,” he whispers hotly against my throat.

I open my eyes at his words, only to find him staring back at me.  He traces his thumb over my jaw before kissing me once more, long and slow.

“Tell her,” he repeats more firmly this time.  “Or I will.”

I nod as I watch him grab his bag and head out of the room, knocking twice on the wall before he goes.

Don’t think that just because this is a high school fic there isn’t any heat, because Lay definitely delivers the heat!  The chemistry between Edward and Bella is palpable.  He wants her, and she wants him, so what/who’s standing between them?

Girl Code – Little white lies become the big, ugly truth #friendtervention

In the modern age of social media, word travels fast.  One little press of a button and hundreds of people can know your business . . . and your secrets, whether you want them to or not.

“They’re killing your reputation 140 characters at a time.”

When you realize someone you thought was one of your best friends is a penny – two faced and worthless.

“Fuck that.”


If you haven’t already, drop everything and start reading Girl Code!  I promise you won’t regret it!


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