Release Date: April 22, 2014
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. Hundreds of thousands of perfect strangers knew when Imogene had her first period. Imogene's crush saw her "before and after" orthodontia photos. But Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her, in gruesome detail, against her will.
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 tell the truth about her life under the virtual microscope and to define herself for the first time.
Don't Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and irrepressibly charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and the surface-level identities we show the world online and the truth you can see only in real life.
I finished reading Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley over the weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I flew through the pages quickly, loving the quirky cast of characters that Heasley introduced me to. I have to say, though, that this seemingly innocent book with the cute cover also packs a pretty hard punch! Sure, it is cutesy, fun, and fast-paced, but it also has some pretty serious undertones. Don’t Call Me Baby really made me stop and think about the impact that social media is having on the younger generations. Poor Imogene and her best friend Sage are tormented by their mothers’ blogs, and I’m sure these two girls represent plenty of other tweens and teens who feel the same way.
I’ve often wondered how children react to their parents’ involvement in social media: do they just accept it (some of them don’t know any different; they’ve grown up with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) or if, like Imogene, they loathe the invasion of privacy. I just want to make readers aware that this book does seem to fall more on the younger end of the YA spectrum (the main character is 15). I think it was due to the fact that I had just finished reading adult fiction, but the book initially seemed more like middle grade than YA. However, as I kept reading, I became sucked into the story and didn’t even think about that anymore. After I got used to Imogene’s narration, I realized that the story was much more mature than I originally thought. It has some pretty serious themes: mother/daughter relationships, online versus real-life identities, computer ethics.
Don’t Call Me Baby begins on Imogene’s first day of ninth grade, as her mother torments her by taking tons of pictures (as almost every parent does on the first day of school). However, Meg is primarily taking these pictures for sharing on Mommylicious, her “mommy blog” where she has been writing about Imogene since before she was born. Affectionately dubbed Babylicious, Imogene loathes this blog. Her mother discloses private, often humiliating details about her personal life, and when Imogene’s friends (and enemies) were old enough, they started reading Mommylicious, which of course made her hate it even more. To add insult to injury, the blog is quite popular, so strangers recognize (and often approach) Imogene when she is out with her friends. Her best friend Sage shares a similar predicament, though her mother’s blog is centered on Vegan food. When an English teacher requires the entire class to create and maintain their own individual blogs, Imogene and Sage decide to use that assignment as an attempt to get their mothers to stop blogging once and for all.
Drama, drama, drama. And for once, the drama isn’t coming from the teenagers! This book put an interesting twist on the way I think about users of social media. In Don’t Call Me Baby, it’s the adults who need lessons in computer ethics and social media, NOT the kids. This fact was pointed out several times by Imogene and Sage. They can’t even set up Facebook accounts because their moms constantly use them for blog publicity. According to Imogene, “my mom wouldn’t let me be on [Facebook] unless I was her friend, and I couldn’t stand her constant Mommylicious—and Babylicious—updates.”
Also, I HAVE to mention the fact the Meg picked Imogene’s name by THE RESULTS OF A POLL ON HER BLOG. Who does that? This is a name that your child will have to live with for the rest of his/her life, and you name her Imogene because a bunch of strangers picked it? I was so enraged by that little fact. Though it’s a minor detail in the story, it reveals so much about their mother/daughter relationship. Imogene’s Grandma Hope (I adored this woman—she’s so sassy!) hates that name so much that she calls her Georgia (her middle name). Little things like this, plus the fact that her mom is always staging “happy” pictures, is what leads Imogene to believe that her mother’s online identity is much more important to her than real life.
Don’t Call Me Baby made me oh-so-thankful that social media wasn’t a big deal yet when I was in high school (ugh, do you know how OLD it makes me feel to say this?!). My heart truly went out to Imogene and Sage because it’s hard enough to be a teenager without your parents putting embarrassing details online for the world to see. However, at the end of the book, when Meg reveals why she started Mommylicious in the first place, I really sympathized with her too. It’s just a tough situation that, unfortunately, probably happens a lot more often than we know. I thought the book ended perfectly. Oh, and Dylan (Imogene’s crush) stole my heart. And there’s a dance called the Pirate’s Booty Ball. If that’s not a good enough reason to read Don’t Call Me Baby, I don’t know what is!
“Our lives move around the blog like it’s a permanent fixture. Even though it’s usually sunny in Florida, it’s always the one cloud in my sky.”
“People say that a Christmas card shows a lot about how a family wants to be seen. Just imagine that if, every day, your mom posted images of you and your family. You’d have thousands of visions of what your mom wants you and your family to be. But they always look like a scrapbook of someone else’s life.”
“I’ve spent so much time worrying that people wouldn’t think there was more to me than Babylicious that I forgot that people are always going to see you differently than you actually are. But the ones who count will stick around and get to know you beyond appearances—or the online character your mother’s created out of you.”
“Always be willing to love again. Loving once is easy. Loving twice is harder, but love anytime is always worth it.”