Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Holly's review here

Daria Snadowsky's dedication to Judy Blume is an apt one; she certainly owes a debt to Blume, whose honest books on the facts of life were so important to girls of my generation. This is not to say that Anatomy of a Boyfriend is just a rehashing of Forever and other works; rather, it's a needed update. Snadowsky uses clean, spare prose (with a hint of humor) to examine high school infatuation (and maybe love), teenage sex lives, growing up, and taking control of your body. The first part of the book introduces Dom, a 17-year-old virgin whose best friend, Amy, has an "anything but" policy in her frequent hookups with whatever guy she finds cute that week. Dom finds most boys unworthy of her time and attention, and she's consumed with college applications, Science Quiz, and keeping her grades up for a good pre-med program. Then she meets Wes, and they begin a classic adolescent infatuation/flirtation during which Dom's brain apparently falls out of her head so that she's unable to think of anything but Wes. And what to wear when she sees Wes. And why Wes hasn't kissed her yet. And...you get the idea. I was getting a little annoyed when I realized--that's pretty much infatuation, isn't it? It bores/annoys everyone except those directly involved. It was hard to see Dom having trouble concentrating on her schoolwork when preparing for college had been her obsession before she met Wes, but it's accurate. And when Dom and Wes start fumbling around the edges of a sexual relationship, the intensity and awkwardness ring true. I obviously cared about the characters, because when Dom waffles on whether to go to her original second choice school, Tulane, (Stanford had rejected her) or Wes's NYU, I could have screamed at her not to be an idiot. Dom decides that she's ready to go all the way, and she and Wes make plans for prom night. Snadowsky doesn't shy away from the details, but the actual sex scenes are more tasteful than anything I've read in romance novels. The next part of the book deals with Dom starting college, meeting new people, trying to get good grades and figure out if she really wants to be pre-med, and, of course, missing Wes. Gradually, she begins to find an identity for herself independent from her great love, and I was pleased to see her make the transition toward growing up.

I have to say that overall this was an excellent novel for teen girls. As a parent (Holly and I are both parents, so you'll have to look elsewhere for the non-parent point-of-view) I think it would be a good starting point for parent-teen conversations about sex. I don't know that I would want this to be my daughter's only reference, but it isn't meant to be. Dom's parents really said very little about sex, except a couple of vague "be carefuls" and I wasn't thrilled that Dom was so non-judgmental about Amy's less-than-safe sex life (though there was finally a comment about it). On the other hand, I was pleased that Dom took charge of her health by providing condoms, and she's not one of those girls agreeing to sex so her boyfriend will like her. There's also a "Future Cosmo Woman" vibe (pun intended) as far as Dom being in control of her body that I thought was an empowering counterpoint to popular culture's emphasis on men's pleasure. I would recommend this to (mature) teen girls, and especially to parents of pre-teen or teen girls, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Anatomy of a Boyfriend sticking around for a whole new generation.

Stay tuned to On My Bookshelf--Daria Snadowsky has agreed to answer a few questions in our first-ever author interview, and we'll be giving away an autographed, hardcover copy of Anatomy of a Boyfriend (out in paperback September 23).

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