We gave it a B+
Whatever your opinion is of Lena Dunham—and you are, as a media consumer, legally required to have one—Not That Kind of Girl probably won’t change it. If you find her output as an actress and premium-cable auteur delightfully fresh and original, you’ve already got her publishing debut in your Kindle queue. If, on the other hand, the idea of a 28-year-old earning a reported $3.7 million advance for her musings on therapy and summer camp and bad college sex fills you with lava-hot rage, you’ve likely made your case at multiple dinner parties, or somewhere in the vast reaches of the Internet.
Dunham knows all this. As her Girls counter-part Hannah Horvath famously said in the show’s first season, ”Any mean thing someone’s going to think of to say about me I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour.” Like Hannah, she is a compulsive oversharer and wearer of crop tops, a confessed neurotic endlessly consumed with the minutiae of her life and her place in the universe. (Hint: It’s the center.) But she is also funnier and warmer and generally wiser. In the book’s introduction she confesses, ”No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontline of that struggle.”
Thus begins a narrative loosely organized around larger themes like Love & Sex and Friendship, but guided mostly by a Woody-Allen-with-a-uterus kind of whimsy. There are lists (”My Top 10 Health Concerns,” ”18 Unlikely Things I’ve Said Flirtatiously”) and multiple accounts of childhood phobias, misguided romances, and unhinged carbohydrate consumption. You will find out what ”tonsil stones” are and learn far more about her vagina than you have ever known of any other genitalia, including your own. Not That Kind‘s tone is droll and confiding and casually glib, though not always: A chapter on encounters with a certain kind of middle-aged man in the entertainment industry—her friend calls them ”Sunshine Stealers”—feels raw and devastatingly real. It’s hard not to wish for more of those stories; not the ones that say ”I’m just like you!” but ones that tell us more about how she became someone singular: a young woman whose work and words have put her at the center of a major pop culture conversation. But Dunham is not that kind of girl—at least not yet. B+