Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 21, 2008

Doing it

Filed under: Uncategorized — jexter1 @ 12:59 pm

Did that catch your attention? I hope so! “Doing it,” by Melvin Burgess, would catch the eye of any hormone-driven adolescent. The cover alone is attractive, with a sketch on the cover and back of a couple partaking in very heavy petting. As we have learned from previous readings, an aesthetically appealing cover makes all the difference for young adult/adolescent readers.

Taking place and written in the dialect of British English, young readers get a different perspective of teen sexual angst. The language alone will make an American teenager intrigued and perhaps laugh a little (i.e. “shag” and “snog”). American adolescents are comforted by Ben, Dino, Jonathan and Jackie (to name a few) as they discover their own sexualities, urges and frustrations. Peer pressure and social expectations prove to influence the sexual choices a few of these characters  make, which resonate with American adolescents as well. There is even a teacher-student sex scandal! How relevant is that? Unfortunately, quite relevant in America.

On page 11, it states that Dino places his hand on Jackie’s face, his long-time crush. Jackie  discovers herself feeling “both slightly threatened and vulnerable,” when she is with Dino, someone that her friends discourage her being with and say is below her (11). A reader response journal could go pages on the instances that teenagers feel both threatened and vulnerable in the presence of a particular peer.

Also, social class: “The main thing about Jackie is, she’s gorgeous. People look at her all the time. When I’m walking along and she’s holding on to my arm, she makes me feel like I’m on a red carpet…” (29). We can take a Marxist approach at this statement, deconstruct the author’s unspoken intentions and words, or even use a post-colonialism approach. The only concern I have is that this book is very explicit in language and imagery. Curse words, such as “f-cking,” and descriptions of feeling Jackie’s “t-ts” are just a couple examples. I would recommend this for a 12th grade English class. If it is used in 11th grade, perhaps it should be reserved for the more mature group(s). Honors level? This book would never make it in a private, Catholic school. It would be a challenge to get the O.K., but both male and female YA readers would love this book, thinking to themselves, “Exactly! That’s how I feel/felt!”

Unfortunately, censorship is a fine line.

What would you do in your classroom? Would you use a book at this level of controversy?




  1. Jess! Ok we were discussing the term “snogging” yesterday and I could NOT think of where I had read that before- I thought of it in the middle of the night (typical)! I first read that in DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS. It was really bothering me so I thought I would share!

    Comment by Kari — February 22, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  2. Kari,

    That’s too funny. I’m glad that you were able to place the word to a book, because I remember how frustrating it was for you to not know. haha I’ll have to read through DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS for “snogging.”


    Comment by jexter1 — February 22, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

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