Book review: Cherry by Lindsey Rosin

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Layla, Alex, Emma, and Zoe are going into their senior year of high school, and they’ve made a pact to all lose their virginity by the end of the school year.  And that’s it, really.  That’s the plot.  Four teenage girls talking openly and honestly about sex.

This book could have been terrible.  It could have been raunchy and unrealistic.  It could have been preachy and awkward.  But it wasn’t.  It was actually really refreshing to read a book where teenage girls aren’t one of two stereotypes: virginal angels who’ve never had a sexual thought in their lives, or sex goddesses who rival even porn stars.  There never seems to be anything in between, and so I was happy to read a book about normal girls.

I wish I would have had a book like this when I was a teenager.

I went to a small Catholic high school, and there were a lot of conflicting messages about sex.  On the one hand, I had my religion teachers telling me that if I had premarital sex, I’d go straight to hell.  We were assigned homework about the various ways to say no.  (It was never discussed that there might come a time when we would want to say yes.)  We signed contracts in which we agreed to save ourselves for our future spouses.  I very clearly remember an exercise in which the teacher made us all line up, and those of us who wanted to save ourselves for marriage were instructed to go to one side of the room, and those of us who didn’t were sent to the other side of the room.  Why?  So we could judge each other based on how we chose to handle our own sexuality?  So much emphasis was placed on what I wanted to do with my own body.  I remained a virgin through high school (due mostly to my social awkwardness rather than any pressure from my teachers), but constantly felt that I was one step away from eternal damnation.

But then, on the other hand, I had classmates talking about who they hooked up with over the weekend.  One time, when our math teacher had to leave the room for a moment, the boy behind me started talking about how it only took three months to convince his girlfriend to have sex with him.  In science class, I overheard my classmates discussing how someone was such a slut for having three boyfriends over the last year.  In gym class, one of the girls was lamenting that her boyfriend was getting bored with her.  She was promptly advised to “do something between hand holding and sex, like maybe a blowjob.”  I remember when one of my friends told me she was “mostly a virgin” because she’d done “almost everything” with her (much older) boyfriend.  Another friend confessed to me that she’d had a miscarriage after being in a car accident.  At that point in my life, I hadn’t even kissed a boy, and here was my friend not only telling me that she’d had sex, but that she’d gotten pregnant and lost the baby.

To say that I was confused about what was normal for a girl my age would be an understatement.  And that’s not even taking into account the media’s influence.

A book like this wouldn’t have made me throw myself at every boy I thought was cute.  But it would have cleared up a lot of preconceptions about Girls Who Have Sex™ vs. Girls Who Don’t™.  This book is open and honest about not only m/f sex, but also f/f relationships, masturbation, orgasms, blowjobs, consent, protection, and, above all, doing what makes you happy.

This book does not encourage girls to throw away their innocence.  It doesn’t encourage them to have experiences they aren’t ready for with people they don’t really like.  The reviews that mention how the girls are forced into having sex because of this pact actually make me really angry because that is not what I got out of this book at all.  Every girl is different.  Every girl does what she’s comfortable with.  If one of the girls had decided she didn’t want to have sex, the other girls wouldn’t have minded.  Because their friendship wasn’t like that. It was about encouraging each other to step a little bit out of their comfort zones and do something they’d been wanting to do anyway.

This book is a lot of fun. The pages seem to fly by, and Rosin never comes across as preachy.  Everything is written in an age-appropriate way, and I loved it so much.  I loved the friendship between the four girls.  I loved that they never shamed each other for having questions, for wanting to do things (and doing them), or NOT wanting to do things (and NOT doing them).  Their friendship is the definition of healthy.

I will happily recommend this book.

Final rating: ★★★★☆