... ambitious ... a feminist testament to survival ... Yet Febos isn’t relentlessly grim ... The compassion Febos has discovered for her younger self is inspiring ... I could have done without some of the other voices in this book — Lacan’s, Wharton’s, even those of some of her interview subjects — if only because Febos’s own voice is so irreverent and original. The aim of this book, though, is not simply to tell about her own life, but to listen to the pulses of many others’ ... This solidarity puts Girlhood in a feminist canon that includes Febos’s idol, Adrienne Rich, and Maggie Nelson’s theory-minded masterpieces: smart, radical company, and not ordinary at all.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that feels so definitive, so necessary, that not only do you want to tell everyone to read it now, but you also find yourself wanting to go back in time and tell your younger self that you will one day get to read something that will make your life make sense. Melissa Febos’s fierce nonfiction collection, Girlhood, might just be that book. Febos is one of our most passionate and profound essayists ... Girlhood...offers us exquisite, ferocious language for embracing self-pleasure and self-love. It’s a book that women will wish they had when they were younger, and that they’ll rejoice in having now ... Febos is a balletic memoirist whose capacious gaze can take in so many seemingly disparate things and unfurl them in a graceful, cohesive way ... Intellectual and erotic, engaging and empowering[.]
... psychologically complex and lyrical ... profoundly intimate ... Although Girlhood is one of the most intimate and revealing books I have ever read, Febos brings a variety of outside source material to her explorations, from mythology to linguistic analysis of the way words are used against women ... if we read it closely enough, Girlhood has taken us closer to the eye of the storm of what it means to grow up female than most well-intended social-science and self-help books on the market. It is a text that adds up to far more than the sum of one woman’s parts .. Febos with rare acuity dismantles the various historical, literary, mythological, and everyday factors that lead to a girl being 'a thing of unknown value'; but, in this deep dive of unpacking, she insists (and this is what makes Girlhood a thing of incredible value) that, yes, something has 'been lost or taken' from us, and she redeems for us the parts of ourselves that we have been taught to hate. This triumph of learning to value herself enabled Febos to write a book that is somehow neither careful nor reckless but profoundly wise and healing, fearless and generous at once. With Girlhood, Febos has become much more than the edgy-but-brainy literary wild-child Whip Smart announced her as a decade ago, but rather — still only in her early 40s — one of our most crucial American writers.