Sunday, February 17, 2008


Hello, Groin

by Beth Goobie.

Somehow, I had not read any of Goobie's other acclaimed teen novels, but this one had so much buzz, I couldn't miss it. And the buzz? Was not unwarranted. Goobie is one powerful writer, and she brings Dylan Kowolski's inner struggles to life so vividly, brings the reader into the story so deeply, that I found myself crying at Dylan's turning point, both for the pain it was causing her and for pride in her for facing it at last.

You see, Dylan is dating one of the school stars. A jock without the jock mentality, Cam is a great guy, and she loves him with her whole heart and her whole mind. The problem is, her body doesn't seem to agree. It keeps just turning off, and he's been waiting patiently for it to be right for her, long past the typical waiting period for couples in their school. It frustrates her, the fact that her groin and head can't match up, but slowly she lets herself realize in a deep, hidden place that it's because her body wants a girl, no matter how much she cares for Cam. and once that starts to bubble up, there's no stopping the secret for long. Within a couple of months, she finds herself unable to carry on the lie, facing suspicion at school, slight pressure from Cam, and the growing needs of her own body. So in one wrenching weekend, both awful and relieving, she faces the truth, and tells Cam, her parents, and the best friend she loves in every way - including the way she can't love Cam.

Cam, being the wonderful, thoughtful, mature guy her is, backs off, but ultimately deals and helps her, too. He may hang with jocks, but he's no meathead himself. Her best friend Joc, fortunately, has been read right, and the two move towards something deeper. The parents are okay, though Joc's brother is not so cool - her mother, though, lets him know that he'd better step up. The only problem left is a girl that has been semi-stalking Dylan since the single kiss they shared weeks ago. Feeling braver now, she calls her to talk, too, and wraps up the ends before she starts moving forward with what is now her new life.

The book is wonderfully written, and the struggle between what Dylan thinks she wants and what her body is telling her sounds like it could be written by someone who knows. Her confusion, her fear, her longing are palpable, and leap off the page. My only complaint is a minor one - there are parts of the language that feel repetitive, which I find slightly distracting. Still, I can see how it can happen that you have a turn of phrase that you feel works well for something, and it's hard to move past it, feels false to grope for something else. Overall, this is one hell of a stellar book, and one that I would recommend for anyone growing up. Because even if it's not the sexuality thing, most teens have something in themselves they are wrestling with that wants to come out, and should be able to identify with this on some level. And this story? Ends on the sort of lovely, hopeful note you hope these stories always could.

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I'm a big fan of Goobie. Read Before Wings. It's great. Apparently Goobie is a bit of a recluse. Trivia, nothing more.
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