virgin, but not by choice

So I finally read what was one of the talked-about books last summer, Radhika Sanghani’s Virgin (IB), which made headlines first because what book about a quest to lose your virginity wouldn’t make headlines, and also because the publisher did this thing where they made two covers in order to test the book out on multiple audiences. I thought this was a great idea in theory, even if in practice both covers are things we’ve seen a thousand times before and they don’t really accomplish what the publishing reps say as far as appearing “edgy.” Also, there looks to be a third cover, and the dumbest cover of all, with the girl whose eyes are covered by the book’s title, doesn’t seem to be findable, and I don’t know if that happened before or after sales officially began. Anyway. Cool idea, should possibly happen more often, but not all that interesting in this particular case. Might work better for crossover texts that you want to market as New Adult and YA, or New Adult and regular adult, or what have you.

As far as the book itself, I am onboard with about 2/3 of it, and that’s about as much as you could hope for with a book that is irreverent and about an awesome subject but sadly still has to have a plot, and the author decided to fit go the chick lit direction. That’s fine, because chick lit is fine, and if anything, chick lit could use more stuff that’s actually sex-positive instead of pseudo-sex-positive but actually pretty subscribe-y to the patriarchy-y. So hurrah!

Anyway, I think lots of young women at the end of high school/in college could and should use this book. It’s so refreshing (and sadly rare) to see a story about young women who talk frankly not just about sex but also about how you groom your pubes and what to do when you’re past ready to have sex and you just haven’t yet, and people misunderstand you because after a certain point, they assume abstinence is an active choice, not just an unfortunate state of being, and it is just as valid to be upset that you are still a virgin as it is to be abstinent by choice, but no one ever talks about it, because they act like anybody who wants a boyfriend can automatically have one, when there should be far more stories about people who are well aware that satisfying sexual experiences can happen outside of “relationships” and that not everyone got asked out in high school (can you tell I have a very personal connection this book?). It is way too common a thing in the real world and incredibly rare in books.

virginIt’s also a very now book, so aside from some Britishisms (mostly related to schooling, but also, I think they define Brazilian waxes differently than we do) that threw me off occasionally, I was all about the blogging references, the parties where they play Never Have I Ever, awkwardly trying grooming methods, and more. Sanghani does not hold back at all – there are tons of embarrassing moments that make you cringe because you can feel them so much.

My only point in disliking the final 1/3 of the book is that it got fairly conventional with the plot, but I honestly can’t think of many other ways it could have gone and still sold to a publisher. But I can’t really discuss that more without giving total spoilers, and I don’t feel like doing that. Suffice to say that this book is a lot of fun overall and also quite excellent in some respects and worth your attention.

**Another point for future thought and writing, maybe if I find some other books to think about as well: Sanghani is clearly British-South Asian, which means she is part of a major minority group in Britain. I really don’t know all that much about how British publishing feels about diversity, but I do think it’s interesting that the main character in Virgin, Ellie Kolstakis, is Greek, and thereby one of those “minorities” that WASPs think of as less white than them, even if the rest of us see them as white people. I’m not going to be one of those people who says you can only write about people who look like you, because we don’t need to have that ridiculous argument brought out, but given that there are plenty of moments where Ellie’s ethnic heritage is of huge importance, from family issues to how she feels about her body, I thought it was interesting that she didn’t share the author’s heritage – at least from what I can tell from the author’s name and picture. Her blog doesn’t really say much. Anyway, that’s a post for another day.

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