The V Club (2004) by Kate Brian
Inside Jacket: Are you in the club? When Victoria A. Treemont, the most revered and reclusive woman in Ardsmoe, Pennsylvania, passes away, she leaves behind a $160,000 scholarship fund that rocks the worlds of the students at Ardsmore High School. The successful candidate must "exemplify purity of soul, spirit, and body." Everyone agrees that this caveat can mean only one thing: The recipient of the scholarship must still be holding on to the big V.
Welcome to the V club--where members embrace abstinence, get off on civic duties, and heat up their chances to clinch the Treemont scholarship. What better way to prove purity than to pledge allegiance to the virginity flag? Besides, chastity belts are sooo 1300s.
Kai, Mandy, Debbie, and Eva have put their futures on the line. But will their deepest insecurities and darkest secrets ruin their chances at the scholarship, or worse, their relationships? Or will they discover the true meaning behind Mrs. Treemont's famous last words?
Review: Despite being from 2004, this book reads like a blast from the past with names like "Debbie" and "Mandy," a crop top as the height of fashion, and a writing style that reads like an instructional manuscript for sex-ed:
When I started reading, I expected the book to offer some interesting commentary on what it really means to be pure and I assumed that it would conclude that you don't have to be sexually abstinent to be a good human being. This is only somewhat the case. Kai, Mandy, Debbie, and Eva learn some lessons about being honest with one another (one kind of purity), but the focus really is on whether or not they've had sex. Brian tries to cover several angles: Debbie struggles with being the school slut despite never having slept with a guy; Mandy debates whether she should do it with her long-time boyfriend; Kai regrets having done it years ago; Eva has never done it. It still felt like a book that was more about abstinence being better than anything else. For example, Brian writes with such earnestness:
In this scene, purity-pledging hottie Riley Marx explains to Eva why he's waiting until marriage:
"I figure, what better gift can you give the person you're gonna spend the rest of your life with than to tell her you've been waiting for her?" (p. 98)
And then there's some examples of teens not talking like teens (much less people in general), as when Kai's ex-fling Andres says:
"You and I are old friends, Kai. We shared something very special. We should be able to cherish that." (p. 120).
Mandy and Eric also share a very special exchange where he knows what she needs more than she does:
"I...can't...take...it...anymore," Mandy heard herself say. "I just want everybody to leave me alone." But even has she said it, she wrapped her arms around him and held him tight.
"Well, you're in trouble, then, 'cause I'm not going anywhere," Eric said softly.
So, those were annoying things.
[SPOILER ALERT]: Even when Kai addresses the scholarship committee and launches into a fierce tirade against the "purity" requirement--and they all agree with her that it's a little ridiculous--nobody does anything about it. Eva and Riley get to split the scholarship and in fact, the final act in the book is a toast to their decision to abstain. There's nothing wrong with that decision, but Brian does seem to reinforce the idea that it's the best choice of all and thus rewards those characters more than the others.
Conclusion: 2/5. Boring characters, stiff writing, unbelievable dialogue, and a weird message.
2011 YA Reading Challenge: 2/40
For some more interesting discussions about purity, here are some links for your perusing pleasure:
1. The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti. Non-fiction. Informative and engaging!
2. Daddy I Do. Documentary trailer about purity balls.
3. This animation using a lesson from a real abstinence only educational program.
4. Jackson Pearce (of Sister's Red fame) is also writing a book about purity and the accompanying balls. You can read the synopsis here. I'm looking forward to seeing how she handles it.