Review: The No Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall

The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall cover shows a plus-sized girl walking down a sidewalk with another short-haired girl.

The No Girlfriend Rule
Christen Randall
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Published March 5, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The No Girlfriend Rule

Julie Murphy meets Casey McQuiston in this unforgettable queer romance about a teen girl whose foray into fantasy tabletop roleplaying brings her new confidence, true friends, and a shot at real, swoon-worthy love.

Hollis Beckwith isn’t trying to get a girl—she’s just trying to get by. For a fat, broke girl with anxiety, the start of senior year brings enough to worry about. And besides, she already has a Chris. Their relationship isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s comfortable and familiar, and Hollis wants it to survive beyond senior year. To prove she’s a girlfriend worth keeping, Hollis decides to learn Chris’s favorite tabletop roleplaying game, Secrets & Sorcery—but his unfortunate “No Girlfriends at the Table” rule means she’ll need to find her own group if she wants in.

Gloria Castañeda and her all-girls game of S&S! Crowded at the table in Gloria’s cozy Ohio apartment, the six girls battle twisted magic in-game and become fast friends outside it. With her character as armor, Hollis starts to believe that maybe she can be more than just fat, anxious, and a little lost.

But then an in-game crush develops between Hollis’s character and the bard played by charismatic Aini Amin-Shaw, whose wide, cocky grin makes Hollis’s stomach flutter. As their gentle flirting sparks into something deeper, Hollis is no longer sure what she wants…or if she’s content to just play pretend.

The No Girlfriend Rule on Goodreads

My Review

I’ve read several books just this year that feature tabletop RPGs (role-playing games). I love that so many books feature characters who play games like this, and this one is up near the top of my favorites.

In order to write a story like this well, I feel like the author has to really balance drawing the reader into the scenes of what’s happening in-game but also make it clear that this is unfolding in the characters’ imaginations. Christen Randall does that so well here. The in-game scenes are immersive but without losing the experience of characters playing the game.

I really liked the way the game itself echoed some of the themes of the story in Hollis’s life. It’s the best example of an in-game versus in-story parallel that I think I’ve seen. As Hollis herself comes to a crossroads where she has to face some hard truths and take action, so does her character, Honoria Steadmore.

I also LOVED the development of the friendships between the girls and the way that spending time with them helped Hollis to become more comfortable and confident as a person. That happened so gradually and organically that I didn’t even notice it until her boyfriend pointed it out. I felt like I had the same reaction to him as Hollis did, which was really cool– definitely made what was happening feel like it made perfect sense.

All in all, I think readers hungry for more stories about people playing Dungeons and Dragons-like games (Hollis and her friends play Secrets and Sorcery) will find so much to love here. Readers looking to celebrate female relationships will also find lots to love. I think this is a debut? It’s fabulous– I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The No Girlfriend Rule on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Hollis and another character are plus-sized. Two characters are Latine American and another is Asian American. Another is Black and transgender. One character is a lesbian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two girls. A male character in a tabletop role-playing game tries to seduce a female character via a dice roll. (It’s clear the advance is unwelcome, and what he wants is to succeed no matter her feelings if his dice roll is high enough.)

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
A boy makes derisive statements about queer women in multiple scenes. Some misogynistic statements. Some cruel statements about a girl’s weight.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE NO GIRLFRIEND RULE in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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