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Published April 24th 2012 by Little, Brown BYR
I was a little hesitant to read this, I'm not even going to lie. It's not that I don't like Jackson's writing (because I do), or that I thought that she would be heavy-handed and didactic and...zealous (because I didn't, really). It's just that there was the chance. I mean, a YA book that tackles virginity in terms of purity runs the risk of being much more
[Also: is it wrong of me to say that I was also worried that there was a chance that I would lose respect for Jackson and her writing if that was the path it did take? Because that was part of the trepidation, I'm not going to lie. I avoid religious discussions whenever I can because I don't want to inevitably view people differently afterward... Unintentional moment of truth, there.]
FORTUNATELY, Jackson avoided all of the pitfalls I feared the story might fall into. It's much more coming of age - and coming to terms - than some heavy-handed emphasis on religion and purity. It is about questioning and finding yourself and your beliefs, whatever those may be. Shelby questions God - and questions everything - as she learns to navigate her relationships and discover who she is and what she thinks, feels, and wants. It's funny and poignant - and predictable, yes but not in a bad way. And it's super quick.
Now, here's for the opposite-of-me warning: I think the things I liked may offend some readers.Where I found it well handled and thought it was authentic and relatable, others may find it, uh...sinful? I'd venture to say that reading the synopsis should really be enough to tell you if you'd be offended or made uncomfortable by this book. It's all pretty laid out (pun accidental, but...eh, appropriate, I guess). At its core, it's not so simple, but on the surface, it IS a book about a girl trying to lose her virginity (with someone, anyone - a stranger, if need be) as a loophole in a promise to her parents, and that will inevitably bother some people. If you're one of those, you may want to skip this. (Though I think maybe you're exactly the type of person that needs to read this.)
I think also there are times people may find Shelby's relentless adherence to the "Rules" at any cost a bit ridiculous. Personally, I thought it made sense in a really sad, human way, so it didn't bother me too much. People do this. In real life, people do seemingly bizarre things like this. They hold on too tight and too long, and do absurd things out of love and guilt and fear of what's next, and because they don't know how to stop. They don't know what will happen if they stop, and it's easier not to confront whatever it is that this bizarre thing (like The Rules, or whatever it may be that people cling to) is helping to avoid. Added to the fact that Shelby's so young, and her reaction didn't really seem so farfetched anymore. But there are those who will always think it's farfetched, or will think it's forced for the purposes of the story. Or who just plain won't relate to Shleby.
But those two warnings aside, I think this is definitely worth the read. It was sweet and enjoyable, and engaging and quick. And even if it didn't necessarily knock my socks off and have me pushing it on everyone I knew, it still wasn't something I wanted to put down or pass on, which is really saying something considering how hesitantly I started it.
[And it didn't make me think less of Jackson or her writing. If anything, it made me think better of both.]