Monday, February 20, 2023

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Jaya Goffney


DNF @ 59%

Okay, so this is one of those books where I appreciated what it was trying to do more than what it actually did do. The heroine, Monique, has tried to have sex with her boyfriend nearly 30 times but always has to stop because it's so painful. She later finds out that she has vaginismus, and the book sort of becomes an almost fetch quest as she, and two unexpected allies-- sycophantic good girl Sasha and bad boy Reggie-- try to help her "cure" her problem by plying her with erotica, vaginal dilators, and constant instruction on how to train herself.

I've read other sex-positive YA before that hit it out of the park. One of the book was Camryn Garrett's FULL DISCLOSURE (about an HIV positive girl who wants to have sex, but who also wants to do it in a way where she won't infect her partners who, you know, get something herself) and JACK OF HEARTS (AND OTHER PARTS) by Lev A.C. Rosen, in which a young gay teen plays Dear Abby anonymously to the anxious and curious teens in his school who have sex questions.

I read CONFESSIONS OF AN ALLEGED GOOD GIRL hot on the heels of Lara Parker's VAGINA PROBLEMS, which is a memoir about living with the chronic pain and sexual difficulties of living with endometriosis, which also involves painful sex. I wish CONFESSIONS hadn't focused so hard on "fixing" Monique, or held up penetrative sex as the be-all, end-all. In Ms. Parker's memoir, she talks about some of the alternatives she sought out, and how despite her angst and misery about not being able to have sex normally, the focus is always on her physical and psychological well-being. Monique is clearly very uncomfortable with some of the treatments her friends find for her, but she forces herself to do them anyway because she sees them as necessary for the heteronormative sex she desires.

I also wish the author had mentioned that sex isn't even necessary as part of a teen's coming of age. There are kids who are ace and aro who may not even want that in the first place, so it was kind of weird to read a book about an inability to have sex that didn't even bring up the fact that there are non-religious people who simply don't want or need sex.

I am always appreciative of sex-positive books in the YA lit canon, especially since so many alt-right groups are challenging books like these and trying to get them banned from libraries. This is also the first YA book I've read that tackles "vagina problems" in the first place, so it makes me especially sad that I didn't like it more. But it felt really superficial and kind of ridiculous for the subject matter it tried to tackle, and making the heroine's medical issue into something that needed to be resolved and having her repeatedly refer to herself as broken was really sad. Even though I'm sure that's language that is part of a grief and acceptance process, having her friends constantly pushing her to fix herself, even if it came from a place of support, kind of normalizes that sort of thinking rather than refuting it.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars

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