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Julie Doe

Exposure: A Novel - Therese Fowler Young adult books are outside my normal reading genres, but this book came highly recommended by a friend. I was not impressed.

Short version of the plot: Anthony Winter (18) and Amelia Wilkes (17) are high school seniors who believe they are in love. Anthony's mother teaches at the private school that Amelia attends, making it possible for Anthony to also attend even though he could not afford to otherwise. Amelia is an only child, whose parents - particularly her father - have her whole life planned out for her. She, however, wants something else (she want to study art, not business) and she and Anthony have plans to move to New York City together after graduation and attend NYU. One day, Amelia forgets her computer at home and her father, who manages to hack her password, finds naked pictures of Anthony on her computer, pictures that Amelia asked him to send. The situation degenerates from there.


What I didn't like:

1. Much of this story is *told* to the reader, including key scenes like Anthony's first court hearing before a judge. We don't get to see what happens; one of the characters tells the reader about it after it happens. Most of Anthony and Amelia's relationship prior to the sexting is likewise told to the reader. I remember rolling my eyes and skimming many times to get to more actual action, to things happening in the present of the story. The big blocks of telling mitigated much of the emotional impact of the story for me.

2. Anthony and Amelia are portrayed as these perfect (cardboard) characters - he's the poor, smart, hard-working, romantic, good-looking guy, and she's the rich, funny, smart, beautiful, misunderstood-by-her-driven-father girl. Anthony's mother is also the perfect likeness of the supportive single mother working to make a better life for her son. Amelia's father is stereotypical the bad guy who doesn't listen to what his daughter wants and institutes draconian discipline to keep her away from Anthony. The prosecuting DA is the BAD GUY!!! *sigh* I wanted some depth or shades of gray to these characters. No one is perfect; no one is all evil.

3. I was a little disturbed by the message (my interpretation, not explicitly stated in the book) that sexting was OK in this case because it was just between two kids who were in lurrrvve. Now, I'm not a prude, and I don't find it morally offensive or horrible that two kids who are sexually active with each other send each other naked pictures. It's part of exploring the nature of a sexual relationship. However, the downside of spreading around naked pictures of oneself is never even mentioned outside the legal ramifications. The only negative to the sexting presented in the book was the overreaction of the legal system, and to me this lack of realism, added to the very black & white nature of this story.

4. The ending. Oh gosh, the ending. WARNING: SPOILERS. Near the end of the book, after Anthony and Amelia have violated the terms of their release on bond (and thereby risking Anthony's mother's house and job), Anthony decides that his best option is to commit suicide, because by doing that and by having friends post a bunch of stuff on the Internet "proving" that he and Amelia were in love, the DA might let Amelia off the hook. And guess what? It works. Anthony only almost dies, and the media hounds the DA's office and he drops the charges. Come again? I have two problems with this:

First, the outcome implicitly endorses Anthony's actions, which I find appalling. I know that suicide is usually an irrational act committed by someone who is under a lot of stress and is not thinking clearly, although the person committing suicide doesn't necessarily think that. So I'm OK with Anthony considering that a solution at the time, but to have events play out so that his irrational act actually benefits the characters in exactly the way he wanted? Um, no. Bad message.

Second, I don't find it realistic that the DA would suddenly drop the charges simply because he found out the two kids thought they were in love. Of course, the reader is never given any particular reason that DA is so out for blood in the first place other than a vague, "he's hard line". But why would the kids' feelings towards each other make a difference to him? Or is it the media attention? This is never made clear, and it seemed liked the easy way out. The kids' situation is horrible and dire, and then in six pages....it's not! Yay, everything is forgiven. *sigh*

I would give this one star, but I usually reserve those for books where the writing mechanics, as well as the story, are below par. The writing mechanics in this book is competent - the prose reminds me of literary fiction at times - so 2 stars it is.