Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison

My only regret about September Girls is that I discovered its very existence after some controversy regarding the title on a certain popular book cataloguing website. That is kind of a shame, considering that this is a brilliant, well-written and challenging YA novels that I have read this year. 

September Girls tells the story of Sam, an awkward virginal-but-horny teenager who spends the summer with his dad and older brother at a beachside tourist town. There is something a little bit odd about the girls in town--they are all beautiful, they all look very similar (thus making it difficult for many to tell them apart,) and for reasons that are unknown, they all seem to be drawn to Sam, particularly DeeDee and her older sister Kristle. In between the chapters told from Sam's perspective are narratives from the girls, who speak collectively as 'we' and would appear to wash up on the island at age sixteen and disappear again when they turn twenty-one. The only way to prevent their disappearance is to seduce a virgin boy. Which may explain why Sam is suddenly so popular.

What could have easily dissolved into an idiotic porn fantasy for boys (and I think the fear of this is where much of the criticism of the book has come from,) plays out on some very clever levels. Using magic realism and a narrator that is easy to identify with, author Bennett Madison tells a story that raises questions about personal freedom, feminism and what it truly means to be a man. (I'll give you a hint: Sam's transformation from boy to man has nothing to do with virginity.) There are some clever subtitlies within the narrative--for example the women's magazines that DeeDee finds so stifling but is forced to read are called Her Place. There is also an interesting sub-plot involving Sam's mother and her own journey of self-discovery. 

I enjoyed this one for its metaphors and icky, accurate depiction of adolescence. Recommended YA reading, though it may not appeal to all readers or tastes.