Characters and Symbols Found in "The Write Way to Get a Girlfriend"

Updated on March 19, 2018
Alfred R Taylor profile image

Alfred R. Taylor lives with his wife and two children outside of Orlando, Florida. He is a graduate of the creative writing program at UCF.

Introduction

The Write Way to Get a Girlfriend is more than a young adult coming of age novel. It is a novel with two distinct purposes: to teach English usage and valuable life lessons every student should know. The novel’s premise is Joe, the antagonist, is teasing Juan, the protagonist, about his bad grades. Kirsten, Juan’s English tutor, hears the teasing and proposes a bet to resolve the issue. In the course of winning the bet, Juan learns English usage, how to find a job, how to write a resume and cover letter, how to handle a job interview, and how to find the best college for the least money. Julia Gaskill of the Portland Book Review says, “Taylor does a wonderful job using his written text as a teaching mechanism. He weaves this knowledge into a story that young people might also find interesting” (par 4).

What makes this novel so gripping is the depth in which the characters are developed. In the backdrop of Edgar Allan Poe high school, the characters don’t act in predictable ways, and the reader is left wondering what will happen next. The Write Way to Get a Girlfriend is a young adult novel with engaging characters, unusual symbols, and important themes.

Characters

The novel’s main character is Juan Rivera, who is a typical high school kid. He has a crush on Tao Takara, the class brain, wants to be popular, and is failing in his English class. Juan is a round character because he learns that his real friends will help him build his strengths, not attack his weaknesses. He also learns that if he applies himself, he can learn to do anything.

Tao Takara was the smartest girl in the school until Kirsten Mitchell came along. Tao, at first, responded by attacking Kirsten socially every chance she got. Tao is a round character as well because as a result of the conflict she creates, she learns that her little jokes and insults hurt people. She stops being egotistical and begins to unselfishly help others.

Kirsten Mitchell is a new student. She was born in Japan, but she isn’t Japanese. However, she does speak Japanese fluently. She becomes Juan’s English tutor, and she teaches him to think differently about himself. She tells him that the brain is like a set of muscles, and if he exercises it right, he can learn anything. Kirsten is a flat character because she doesn’t grow or change during the course of the novel.

Shannon McQuire is a crimson haired goddess. She is the school’s fashion deva until she is arrested for shop lifting. Then all her friends turn their backs on her. She is a round character because she realizes the people she was trying to impress with the designer clothes and purses really weren’t her friends.

Joe Beaumont is a flat character and the novel’s chief antagonist. At the beginning of the novel, Joe is Juan’s best friend, but when Kirsten shows Juan that Joe only keeps him around to be a target of putdowns and teasing, Juan and Joe drift apart. Joe is a flat character because he doesn’t change as a result of the action of the novel. Despite suffering the negative consequences for his actions, he fails to learn from them.

Gina Malone is both a character and a plot device since the plot of the last half of the book is developed around her. Gina is a troubled youth who turns to alcohol to help her cope with tragic results. She isn’t a flat character because she does grow as a result of the action of the story, but that growth doesn’t get the opportunity to truly manifest itself, so we can’t say she is fully round, although she is one of the best developed characters in the novel.

Symbols

The novel’s symbolism is found within the names of two of its characters: Gina Malone and Mr. Pleasant. Gina Malone, or Mal One, is the “bad girl” of the novel. Gina isn’t truly bad, she is a likeable young woman who makes poor choices because of her shyness and dependence upon alcohol. She assaults Joe to get revenge for a photo he posted of her online, and she drinks herself unconscious on a Saturday morning. Actions that result in unpleasant consequences for Gina. Mr. Pleasant is a lawyer on Senator Davis’ staff, and he is anything but pleasant, which makes his name ironic as well as being symbolic. Juan, who also works for Senator Davis, makes Mr. Pleasant look bad in a meeting. This causes him to develop a hatred for Juan. Since Juan is the janitor, he trashes the bathroom every time something good happens to Juan. The bathroom becomes a symbol for Mr. Pleasant’s hatred.

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Themes

There are several themes hidden within the pages of the novel: the value of education, actions have consequences, and loss are but a few of them. The novel’s main purpose is to teach English composition, but scattered throughout the novel are the reasons why those lessons are important. For example, when Juan has to find a job, he has to learn to write a cover letter and resume. The novel also discusses the importance of studying for the SAT, how to choose a college or trade school, and why earning certifications is important. One example of this would be a comparison between Kirsten’s and Gina’s homes. Kirsten, whose mother is a lawyer, lives in a white marble palace, while Gina, whose mom works two part-time jobs, lives in an old wood frame house she can’t afford to keep repaired.

Some of the novel’s characters don’t behave as they should, and the novel shows the consequences for these negative actions. For example, Shannon is arrested for shop lifting and is sent to jail as well as banned from the Fountain Mall for the rest of her life. Joe posts demeaning pictures on the Internet and is assaulted for his actions. Gina’s drinking problem ends up having tragic results, and Lori’s posting of gossip on the Internet results in her losing all her friends.

The theme of the last third of the novel is how to deal with a loss. The characters refuse to give into sorrow, and do something positive with their grief. The consequences Tao faces as a result of her teasing and bullying of her classmates ends up changing her life forever.

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Conclusion

It may be easy to dismiss The Write Way to Get a Girlfriend as a typical young adult novel, but the author’s intent was to do more than simply entertain the reader. The novel is not only entertaining, but it also teaches, inspires, and demonstrates that actions have consequences.

Works Cited

Gaskill, Julia. Portland Book Review. 15 12 2015. Website. 30 09 2016.

Taylor, Alfred R. The Write Way to Get a Girlfriend. San Bernardino: CreateSpace, 2015. Book.

The Write Way to Get a Girlfriend

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