I’m really excited to have Jennifer Mathieu (author of The Truth About Alice — just released this week and I cannot WAIT to pick up!) on the blog to talk a bit about her novel and give you some book recommendations! I’ve been interested in this one every since I heard about it!
When I first started writing my debut novel, The Truth About Alice, four years ago, I’d never heard of the term slut-shaming. I just knew I wanted to write a book about a girl growing up in a small town who’s ostracized by her community. And, sadly, I knew judging sexual behavior is one of the most common ways our society isolates and humiliates girls and women. That’s why I knew the rumors that overwhelm the character of Alice would be related to what she may – or may not have done – with two boys at a party.
I’m thrilled that my book could become part of any conversation that our culture has about how we treat girls and women differently from boys and men when it comes to sexual behavior, but The Truth About Alice is certainly not the first book that’s tackled this complex issue. I’ve collected a list of some of my favorite young adult novels that have taken on the topic of teen girl sexuality with authenticity and care.
Forever by Judy Blume – The one that started it all. Even though this book was written back in the 70s, there still something revolutionary about it. A nice teenage girl named Katherine chooses to have responsible, mutually-fulfilling sex with her nice teenage boyfriend, and nothing catastrophic happens to either of them. One of the first books to address teenage sexuality, and in classic Blume style, it’s as real and honest as it gets – although it might be the reason the name Ralph fell out of favor. Read the book and get the joke!
Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn – Gingerbread’s main character Cyd Charisse is a snarky girl who’s been kicked out of boarding school and speaks frankly about being sexually active (her boyfriend is a “safety boy” who takes care of buying their condoms). While Cyd is “a girl with a past” (semi-spoiler here – she had an abortion while with a previous boyfriend), Cohn never paints her as fallen angel. She’s just a real girl trying to figure out who she is and what she wants.
E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver books (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, Real Live Boyfriends) – When we first meet Ruby, she’s bluntly informs us that she’s “became a famous slut” and is now a social outcast who’s been dumped by all her friends and her boyfriend because of vicious rumors about what she may or may not have done with certain boys. But Ruby – who lives with her eccentric parents on a houseboat and attends a prep school on scholarship – won’t be defeated, and it’s so rewarding to follow her through her high school years as she triumphs in life and love.
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr – When 13-year-old Deanna Lambert is caught having sex with her older brother’s friend in the backseat of a car, she is branded the school slut. When the story picks up a few years later, Deanna is still fighting her reputation and dealing with a complicated family situation. This finalist for the National Book Award is a heartbreaking read that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.
Fault Line by Christa Desir – This book also tackles the important topic of sexual assault and is told from the point of view of a male protagonist named Ben. When Ben’s girlfriend Ani attends a party without him, something terrible happens, and she is quickly labeled The Slut Who Asked For it. What’s happened to Ani? What can Ben do next? A powerful book that will generate a lot of conversations.
Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian – Natalie Sterling wants to be student council president and she wants to be sexually active on her terms. Why must every choice a girl makes put in her in one of two extreme camps – like slut versus good girl? A frank and feminist novel that’s also a confident exploration of what it means to be a “good girl.”
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally – After her mother comes out and leaves her father, star softball player and future valedictorian Parker Shelton’s picture perfect life is turned upside down. Her church and her friends turn on her, and she’s not sure who she can count on. Then Parker begins to earn a not-so-good reputation, and she’s intrigued by the flirty new baseball coach in town. How can she figure out what – and who – is right for her?
Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!! I’ve read Fault Line, Forever and Not That Kind of Girl and I agree with you that they explore this very well.
Be sure to check out Jennifer’s novel The Truth About Alice:
Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.
Check out the rest of the blog tour schedule!
o 6/3 – Me, My Shelf and I @myshelfandi
o 6/4 – ExLibris Kate @ExLibris_Kate
o 6/5 – Forever Young Adult @4EverYA
o 6/6 – here!
o 6/7 – A Good Addiction @flamingo1325
o 6/8 – Girls in the Stacks @girlsinthestack
o 6/9 – Rebekah Faubion, Writer @rffaubion