|Sometimes it is a very good idea to put off writing a review when the book raises strong emotions, just to make sure you can separate the opinion from the emotion. I decided to wait and think about this book for a while before I wrote about it, and it was a good decision. The more I thought about Virgin, the better I understood why Sanghani wrote the book, and the more I came to appreciate it.
Virgin is a fast paced, funny novel about 21-year-old Ellie Kolstakis, the virgin of the title. She is mortified when she reads her chart during a physical, and sees that the doctor has noted that she is a virgin. She is convinced that there is something horribly wrong with her, that she is the only 21- year- old woman who has never done the deed. She is determined to change her status and finally become worthy of a std test like all her friends. The story wheels through Ellie’s adventures in trying to lose her V-card, dragging her promiscuous friend Emma in her wake, and setting up a blog where the two of them candidly discuss their vaginas, their sex lives or failures at sex lives, the men to whom they are attracted, and the various bits of information they learn about their bodies, their emotions and their choices.
When I first read the book, I was unimpressed. I thought it was little more than a cut rate Bridget Jones, and Ellie’s wealth of mistaken assumptions and poor choices irritated the heck out of me. If I had written the review when I closed the book, it would have been a scathing snarkfest. But I didn’t write it then. And the book kept nagging me. And I kept thinking about it, which surprised me because I hadn’t realized there was that much to think about. Then one day in stop and go traffic on my way to a doctor’s appointment, I had a sudden epiphany. No, not the kind that comes after Christmas, the James Joyce “oh my gosh how did I not see THAT?” kind.
Back when I was an impressionable young thing, I got all my sexual information from Merck’s Medical Manual, my Sisterhood Is Powerful group, and from volunteering at Planned Parenthood. Those less adventurous relied on the horror known as Heath Class, where a seventy year old teacher who could not make herself say the word “Vagina” tried to concentrate the lectures on not driving with a drunken boy, and sending to Kotex for a kit for “that time when we had a monthly visitor.” We all breathed a sigh of relief when the appearance of the movie projector meant we would not have to listen to her euphemisms, but it also meant an hour of a black and white film or slide show about reproduction. Virgin is that slide show!
Ellie is not meant for twenty-somethings who are secure in their sexuality and who have all the answers! (And it is certainly not meant for sixty-somethings who generally qualify as curmudgeons.) Virgin is meant for the thirteen-to- nineteen-year-old who IS a virgin, or inexperienced , or confused by too much information. On that level, it succeeds brilliantly. Ellie makes sad, emo, angsty decisions and all the wrong choices, but in the course of these mistakes learns about condoms, and rejection, and casual hookups, and chlamydia. There is nothing too stupid, nor is there anything too gross to be discussed explained and demystified. She learns confidence, courage, and how to make adult decisions. In the end, she gets her chart changed, she gets her std test, and she learns that there was really nothing all that awful about being a virgin. By the time you close the book, you are left with the feeling that Ellie is finally becoming a woman, and it has nothing to do with losing the V-Card.
When I thought it out, I realized Virgin was a good book, funny enough to keep a teen’s interest, and solidly informative. If I knew anyone who was worried about impending sexual activity by their teenage daughter and who wanted to subtly make sure she had accurate information, I would suggest she leave Virgin in the bathroom and let her daughter “steal” the book. If she had a more open relationship, I ‘d just tell her to say ”This book is a hoot!” and let it go from there. If all she learned from it was that boyfriends never turn out to be Disney cartoon princes, it would be worth it!
In accordance with FTC guidelines for bloggers and endorsements, I would like to clarify that the books reviewed by me are either purchased/borrowed by me, or provided by the publisher/author free of charge. I am neither compensated for my reviews nor are my opinions influenced in any way by the avenues in which I obtain my materials. I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Reviewed by Paula Tupper September 21, 2014