Review | What Does Consent Really Mean? | Pete Wallis, Thalia Wallis, & Joseph Wilkins

consent

What Does Consent Really Mean?

Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1

“Consent is not the absence of ‘NO’, it is an enthusiastic YES!!”

While seemingly straightforward, Tia and Bryony hadn’t considered this subject too seriously until it comes up in conversation with their friends and they realise just how important it is.

Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. Accompanying the graphics are sexual health resources for students and teachers, which make this a perfect tool for broaching the subject with teens.


My feelings for this book are complicated. On the one hand, I love that this conversation has been made so accessible and in such a cool way (graphic novel format). I also appreciate how straight-forward the message is, rather than hiding it within subtext. At the same time, I was taken aback by just how straightforward the message is; if, like me, you thought there would be an actual narrative here, with the message explaining consent, then you’ll be disappointed. It’s my feeling that this novel lacks a narrative entirely. It’s very much like those “moral lesson” books you were given in elementary school where the characters are basically having a dialogue explaining the concept you were meant to learn. There isn’t really a storyline, a plot, a climax, etc. The book is solely argumentative.

I see the merits in this for sure, especially for school age kids. However, this was another point on which I struggled; the subject matter is at times appropriate for all ages (and I definitely think it should be made to be—let’s teach our kids what consent means as soon as they learn to talk!) but there were other times where the content was definitely more mature, with swearing and semi-explicit discussions of sexual relationships, that I would never feel comfortable giving to, say, an eleven-year-old to read. On the flip side, the artwork definitely depicts the characters as younger. Even while they were swearing and talking about their sex lives, I was looking at the drawings of the flat-chested girls with baby faces thinking, There’s no way these girls are older than twelve. Yet the actual verbal content of the book suggests that they are much older than twelve.

Overall, I really appreciate that a book with such a straight-forward approach to the topic of consent has been made available, but I think there is some confusion as to the age group of the audience. I also think the author and publishers will see less success than they hope because of the lack of a narrative; it feels very much like a lesson book, and I foresee this only being read by kids if it’s mandatory.

*

I received a free digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not reflect my professional associations or affiliates in any way.

Advertisements

Sex in YA: An Ode to Authors

I love YA. Of all the books written in the various age groups, I find YA to be one of the most diverse groupings of novels that you can find. Even though I’m in my twenties, I still prefer YA to Adult novels, but as I get older, I do have one complaint that has been plaguing me since I was about, oh, sixteen.

In my past reviews, I’ve hinted that I love when an author actually describes a sex scene, however briefly or detailed. Now, of course I only mean when the timing is appropriate and it advances or contributes to the plot in some way. This isn’t Game of Thrones the TV show, here. But I strongly feel that a descriptive sex scene between characters can help to strengthen the growth of characters and their relationships, much like in real life. It’s so frustrating to me when a YA author builds up the steaminess in a novel to an all-time high only to skip over the sex part even though it’s strongly suggested that it happened. It’s almost like if books were given ratings, they’re trying to keep it at PG-13, and it’s super annoying, for a few reasons.

1: As I said, a descriptive sex scene helps to develop character and can strengthen the relationship between characters. I think knowing what happened during that really intimate, vulnerable moment is key from a reader’s perspective, because I want to know that both characters were respectful and caring with each other, and when it’s skipped over, I have no way of knowing that.

2: I’ve noticed that in a lot of older YA books (where the characters are sixteen or older), the steaminess will be really loaded on but none of the actual sex is seen. This relates to my PG-13 comment. First of all, the characters are older. They know about sex. Most likely, the older readers know about sex. When you make the book really steamy and sometimes even talk about the character getting turned on but leave out the sex, it’s like you’re saying we can only handle it to a certain extent. That we, as readers around the same age as the characters, can handle the foreplay but not what’s happening behind closed doors. I think it sends extremely mixed messages to the audience, and it often leaves me feeling confused, left out, and like the book wasn’t fully whole. My feelings on this are that either the author thinks we can handle sex or thinks that we can’t, but they need to decide one way or the other before writing the book. It’s like if you write a book but end it right before the climax (no pun intended). I mean, really? As a reader, I feel really condescended to.

3: It also really annoys me because the writers of YA are adults. They are adults who know about sex, might have even had sex, and have a bunch of life experience behind them. All this considered, their book is a platform where they can share that life experience and help to shape the viewpoints of their readers. When it comes to sex, descriptive sex scenes can help teenagers to form healthy ideas about sex, consent, and come to understand themselves better through that. I mean, we start getting taught sex-ed at ten years old, so why can’t we read about it at sixteen?

My complaint is that there isn’t enough descriptive sex (like I said, however brief or detailed) in older YA novels and the previous are my three reasons to support that complaint. Basically, at the end of the day, it just feels really condescending, especially considering the authors are adults. I mean, come on. You’re an adult writing for teenagers. You’ve been a teenager. Surely you know that we know about sex and aren’t afraid to read about it. And for those that are (likely a very few percentage), they can just not read that part. It’s really that simple.

Feel free to share any of your thoughts on this subject. I know it can be touchy for some, and I’m happy to clarify anything I’ve said in this post. Happy reading!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo