Ten Things We Did: 07/18/17
Ten Things We Did by Sarah Mlynowski is told in extended flashbacks that lead up to the protagonist waking up in her friend's house, in bed with a boy, and the downstairs completely thrashed as the parents are heading home. April has managed to convince her parents to let her stay at her old high school even though they are moving out of state. She's staying with her best friend, while her bestie's mom is out of town, touring with a theater
At the close of that first chapter and the flashback to the start of this story, I knew I was going to dislike the book with a fiery passion. Stories that backfill after a cliffhanger are stories that don't have enough plot after the big event. These lengthy flashbacks are lazy story telling.
So what is the big hook here? April wants to stay at her old high school because she and her boyfriend are planning on having sex. The parents moving out of state and the other mother going on the road gives both teenage girls the chance to run wild ala Animal House but while still being in high school.
The set up for this story is so preposterous. First and foremost, high schools more than any other school in the K-12 system require proof of residency, on the part of the parents. It would take so much extra work for the parents to convince the school admissions to let their daughter stay that it frankly wouldn't be worth the effort.
Next problem is just the logistics of teens living by themselves. Besides the usual high school stuff: homework, clubs, athletics, rallies, etc., there's also the home stuff: grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, garbage. If your big goal is having sex with your boyfriend — something that's frankly over in an hour at most — do you really want to take on all this added responsibility?
The fact that three adults in this story feel comfortable doing this, even though the two teens are pulling the wool over their eyes a little, smacks of the privilege that comes with money and whiteness. Imagine how different this book would have been if the families had been poor, working class, or POC? Imagine the outrage, rather than this being a fun teenage romp that teaches the importance of safe sex.
Finally there's the absurdity of April being that obsessed with sex at the cost of all other things. I'm not saying that teenage girls don't or shouldn't think about sex. I certainly did but there were way more pressing issues: homework, chores, fan-fiction to write. Dating, boys, drinking, partying — weren't part of my day to day obsession.
According to the Pew Research Center, Basics of Teen Romantic Relationships, 35% of teens (ages 13-17) have some sort of dating or relationship experience. That means 65% of teens don't.
Looking only at the age range that April and her friend fall into: 15-17, 44% of teens have had some sort of romantic experience, meaning still that more than half of all American teens don't even date in high school.
From that set that is romantically involved, only 18% say they're in a serious relationship. Further more, the research found that 10% of their responders reported having had sex, though the Journal of Pediatrics reported 20% in a 2013 survey.
Long story short, this idiotic book would be better set in college. By better I mean more realistic and without the need to backfill to set up the big shock of the parents finding out. Let instead the consequences be more grounded in reality, or if this book is just playing it for comedy, than go further afield with the situations. Make this full fledged farce.
Comment #1: Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 18:42:05
I just had to see what made a book a one star for you. Your take on it makes sense to me. But I probably wouldn't have picked this book to read since teen romance would not interest me. :-)
Comment #2: Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 16:35:00
I don't read a lot of YA romance either. I read this one because I've enjoyed other books by the author.