Aug 29, 2008

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Dominique Baylor, aged seventeen, meets Wesley Gershwin a few days after Christmas on her senior year of highschool. Neither Dominique nor Wesley have ever dated before, and since they’re leaving for college in a matter of months, this doesn’t seem to be the ideal time to start a relationship. But they’re drawn to each other, and after a few months of friendship they become a couple, and start exploring what physical and emotional intimacy mean.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is divided into four sections: the first about Dominique and Wes meeting and getting to know each other, the second about their relationship until prom night, when they first sleep together, the third about their first semester in separate colleges, and the fourth about their breakup.

What I liked the most about Anatomy of a Boyfriend was how emotionally authentic it felt. Reading it brought back some memories, especially part I – the awkwardness between Dominique and Wes, their long conversations online and their long silences the first few times they meet face to face, the insecurities, the anxieties, the fears. Dominique’s narrative voice is simple but expressive. She sounds like an actual teenager, yet you never get the impression that the author is trying to sound hip. She uses some slang, but it never sounds forced – and this is something that drives me crazy in some otherwise perfectly enjoyable YA books. And again, emotionally the book is just spot on. So much of what a teenage girl thinks and feels is in this book.

Dom and Wes’ relationship made me smile quite a few times, but this is no idealized teenage romance. They aren’t fully open with each other, they don’t communicate as honestly as a couple should. But it makes sense that they don’t – they’re young and insecure and they’re just beginning to discover intimacy with a member of the opposite sex. Ultimately, their lack of honesty has perhaps more to do with their breakup than the fact that they went to different colleges, and Dominique doesn’t quite seem to realize this. But again, it makes sense that she doesn’t. She has no other experience to compare this relationship with. By the end of the book, we get to see her beginning to put things into perspective and getting ready to learn more about what being truly vulnerable and comfortable with another person is like.

Then there’s physical intimacy, which Anatomy of a Boyfriend portrays quite openly: the awkward sounds and smells you don’t see in movies, the fact that human bodies are not perfect or perfectly reliable, the things that don’t go as expected, the elbows and knees bumping, the embarrassing sound of a stomach grumbling, everything. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is also about accepting your body more easily once you realize how easy it is to accept supposed imperfections in the person you love. It’s about putting the idea of perfection aside, and seeing your body differently once someone else has seen it.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend can be pretty explicit, but it’s never crude or tasteless. Candid is what I would call it. And I realize that not every reader will enjoy a book about teenagers having sex, though to be honest I wouldn’t exactly call it a book about teenagers having sex. It’s about teenagers mistaking physical intimacy for actual intimacy, discovering their bodies, exploring their sexuality, getting heartbroken, making choices, picking themselves up and moving on. These things happen, and I think every kind of human experience has a place in literature, even the kind that ideally we wouldn’t want to happen.

(And in this case, wouldn’t we? Yes, Dominique gets hurt. But one of my favourite moments in the book is when Dominique’s father tells her about a girlfriend of five years who broke up with him before he met her mother. And he adds that he wouldn’t want not to have gone through that, and that he’s a little sorry that Dominique’s mother never experienced anything of the kind. Without ever having been hurt, can we really appreciate the vulnerability that comes with love? Without any basis for comparison, do we realize what a small miracle it is when two human beings really connect with one another?)

If there’s anything thing I’d complain about, it’s the fact that the book isn’t more detailed. For example, there is a big gap between parts II and III – we go from Prom night to late August, after Dom and Wes leave for college. I’d like to have seen their relationship evolve during this time. I think that showing the two of them together more would have made Dominique’s heartbreak later on have a greater impact on the reader. But it’s not that the story doesn’t work the way it is. It does, but I wish there had been more of it.

Finally, I liked the fact that despite the breakup, the ending of the book is not bitter in the least. Dominique realizes that this too will pass, and learns to look back on her time with Wes not as a waste, but as an important experience.

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter here. You can also read an author interview, and enter for a chance to win a signed copy of the book, here.

Other Blog Reviews:
Out of the Blue
Abby the Librarian
The Compulsive Reader
Book Addiction
Becky's Book Reviews
On My Bookshelf (Holly)
On My Bookshelf (Allison)
A Stripped Armchair
Reader Rabbit

(Did I miss yours? Let me know)

11 comments:

  1. I have a vague memory of receiving an email by the author about advance proof copies available for reviewing, but I never replied, due to the pile of books still unread that I have...

    I'm glad it was a good read for you.
    I certainly wouldn't be offended by teenagers having sex cause I think it's just what happens and there's nothing wrong with it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Valentina: I have quite a tbr pile too, but this sounded like a quick and enjoyable read, so I couldn't resist! I wasn't put off by the topic of teen sex either. It made me extra curious, actually, as there seem to be few books that deal with it so openly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have this book on my TBR pile as well. I'm glad you liked it. I'm looking forward to reading it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Honestly, this is not a book that would normally catch my eye...but then you go and write about it with such insight,
    "Without ever having been hurt, can we really appreciate the vulnerability that comes with love? Without any basis for comparison, do we realize what a small miracle it is when two human beings really connect with one another?"
    that it has to go on the list...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can I just ditto Ken's comment? Seriously, I was going to say that this probably never would have caught my eye without your review, and I was going to point out the very same passage from your review!
    Thanks Nymeth, your review was really incredible!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Stephanie, I look forward to your review. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)

    Ken and Debi, thank you :) And I'm glad to have made you interested! And Debi, I think I remember you saying you enjoyed Judy Blume's books growing up? This one is often compared to her book Forever, and it is, in fact, dedicated to Judy Blume!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I keep seeing this around but was a bit reluctant to pick it up as some YA can be abit hit and miss. It's good to read your review and get more information about it. I know what you mean about some authors which try to be hip and use lots of slang. Sounds like it has a lot of depth.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rhinoa, I know what you mean about YA being hit and miss, but this is one of the good ones!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great review! You brought up a lot of good points, and it's intriguing that the book is about more than just teens and sex.

    --Diary of an Eccentric

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anna, thanks! I'm glad to have made you curious about this one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for participating in the September book carnival! The post will be up by the end of Saturday at
    http://readingderby.blogspot.com/2008/09/september-bookworm-carnival.html

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.