Friday, March 08, 2013

Pro-Abstinence YA Novel Refreshing, But Not Riveting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

High school senior Val Jensen really isn't one for drama.  Usually.  But when her ex-boyfriend—who's still smarting because she refused to sleep with him—spreads a rumor that she's easy, Val snaps.  She stands up in the crowded lunchroom and yells out the truth for all to hear:  she's a virgin and will be until her wedding night.  Thanks to someone's cell phone camera, Val's impassioned speech hits YouTube, where it goes viral.

At first, she's mortified by all the attention.  Then, Val realizes that she has no reason to be.  By speaking up in defense of abstinence, she has the chance to help teenagers not just in Huntington Beach, California, but all over the country, maybe even the world, make smart decisions about sex.  She has a very good reason, too—her birth mother got pregnant way too early, resulting in Val being placed for adoption when she was an infant.  She doesn't want herself—or any of her friends—to have to endure that kind of heartache.

It's only when Val meets a totally irritating, but completely irresistible rock star that she begins to doubt herself.  Kyle Hamilton's the sexiest guy she's ever met and he's so hot for Val that he's writing hit songs about her.  How can she not give him everything he wants?  But if she does, she'll destroy all the good she's done as Virgin Val.  If she sticks to her guns, though, she may lose everything else.  As her life spirals out of control, Val must decide when to speak up, when to stand down, and how far she'll go to get what—and who—she wants.

I'd never heard of Kelly Oram until her latest novel, V is for Virgin, was nominated for a Whitney Award.  And even though I didn't love the book, I'm glad for the introduction to Oram's work.  She writes with a strong voice and a forthrightness that's both refreshing and instructive (without being too preachy).  Contemporary YA seems to be a natural fit for her.  That being said, I had a few issues with her latest (don't I always?).  Val, for me, is another one of those heroines who's way too into herself to be likable or sympathetic.  Her oh-poor-me-I'm-so-beautiful-that-every-guy-I-meet-falls-in-love-with-me act gets very old very quickly.  Plus, things go a little too smoothly for her.  Like I said before, I can't root for a heroine who doesn't have to fight a little bit to achieve her goal.  There were other things that bugged me about the story, like how Val's (supposedly attentive) parents let her date an older guy (without any protest) and attend wild adult parties dressed like a streetwalker (again, they say nothing?).  Also, the fact that said older guy—and his buddies—are going after high school girls.  And don't get me started on my love/hate relationship with the book's Epilogue.  So, despite the things I did like about this one, V is for Virgin ended up falling kind of flat for me.  Oram's on my Authors-to-Watch list, though, because I think she's got some definite potential.  Let's see if she lives up to it, shall we?

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a lot of Finding June by Shannen Crane Camp)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF copy of V is for Virgin as part of my involvement with judging for the Whitney Awards.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. I have not read anything by this author. I will have to look into it. I think this book sounds interesting and I have added it to my TBR pile. It makes me a little sad that the main character is annoying, but I'll give it a shot. I like the idea behind the story.

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