We’ve been playing with a theme here the last week or so: strong females, sexuality and how it’s all portrayed in contemporary literature, more specifically in New Adult romance. The book I’ve been reading over the last week is a perfect example of how that’s done well.
You might remember I read the first two Ivy Years books last month and really enjoyed them. I was thrilled to see this new installment come out in April, but since it didn’t involve the main characters from the first two, I was a little worried. Happily, the story was so good and the characters so very engaging that I was immediately captivated. But what drew me in even more was one of the main themes of this novel: healthy sexuality and the role of shaming in our culture.
Bella, the female lead, is an unabashedly sexual character. It’s clear early on that she’s perfectly comfortable with her own body, with her sexuality and with a series of partners. She’s the hockey team’s manager, and she’s definitely more at home with men than she is with girls; we notice that she doesn’t really have any female friends, and the attitudes of the hockey girlfriends are less than warm. Still, the fact that Bella doesn’t feel shame–and in fact celebrates her choices–makes the reader comfortable with her, too.
When she encounters her upstairs neighbor Rafe needing some cheering up, Bella does what comes naturally. His response–or Bella’s perception of it–in the weeks that follow shake her convictions, but what happens next nearly destroys her life. I won’t spoil it, but the way the author weaves this story, subtly showing how easy it is to jump to judgement in situations we don’t understand, is remarkable and extremely well-done.
The juxtaposition of Bella’s open sexuality and that of the men at her school, and how both of those are perceived by others, is eye-opening. (More on that Thursday.)
From a strictly-story point of view, this was fabulous. The love story is gently developed, with believable ebbs and flows. Bella’s evolution and maturity is also nicely done, and I’m excited that one of the related characters will have her own story! (Yay! More Ivy Years!)
If you haven’t tried these books yet, I highly recommend them. Actually, I can’t say enough good about them. One click ’em now.