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Dear Author May Book Club: Author Q&A with Erin McCarthy

True by Erin McCarthy1) New Adult is exploding right now. Why do you think that it’s resonating with readers?

I think it’s resonating with readers because it bridges the gap between YA and traditional romance. It’s about the pivotal point in life where for the first time ever there is no parental supervision, and the choices made have major impact. Personally, I really enjoy writing the genre because it allows me to write heroines who don’t have it all figured out and who make mistakes. With romance, we expect the heroine to behave in a certain way and to be mature, even if she hasn’t found Mr.Right yet. With new adult, the heroines are still figuring out who they are and making decisions, both good and bad, that will impact their twenties and beyond. There is no expectation of perfection.

2) Rory’s storyline explores one of the things that I think is interesting about the newly independent character and that is as she is exposed to experiences different than her upbringing, she changes in response to those experiences. For instance, Rory grew up in a fairly privileged environment and learned firsthand that there were those not as fortunate as her, that were experiencing life differently than her. What insight can you give us (without spoiling) the character growth of your female protagonist?

We all approach the world from our own particular experiences and Rory has been raised in the same environment for her entire life so of course she hasn’t personal experienced things like poverty or an abusive family. While she is inherently a good person and always has been, college and her relationship expose her to another facet of life she hasn’t experienced before and of course that allows her to grow as a person.

3) Was the transition from writing adult contemporary to a novel like True a challenge? Yes or No?

 No, not at all. I have always loved writing YA and I have loved writing stories with more angst in them, but that really wasn’t the direction my career took, so I write the humor in my romances that readers love. But I enjoy the raw emotion of new adult.

4) When writing your book, do you begin with your characters or does it begin with a plot?

 It depends on the book, but usually I start with a basic premise (such as roommates pay to de-virginize her) then I create the characters. The plot comes to me as I flesh out who they are, what they want, what creates conflict between them.

5) Who would you define as the audience for New Adult books?

Woman between 18-40 seem to be the primary readership of new adult, but I don’t have any hard statistics on that. It’s just based on what I’ve seen from reviews, etc. I do think the genre is for readers who want less of the fantasy element to their romance read.

6) What’s next for Erin McCarthy?

 Fangs For Nothing, a paranormal vampire romance I wrote with Kathy Love will be out in July. This is a humorous sequel to The Fangover. I’m also in an anthology with Carly Phillips, Hot Summer Nights. Then in December, Full Throttle, my next Fast Track book will be out.

And there will be a second new adult book out in November 2013. This one will feature Riley, Tyler’s brother, and Jessica, Rory’s roommate. Tyler and Rory will be back, along with the younger Mann brothers. Jessica finds herself without a place to stay after lying to her parents, and she ends up bunking with Riley… lots of sparks between those two.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

54 Comments

  1. cleo
    May 15, 2013 @ 10:31:36

    I have really mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t like the first chapter and only read the book for the book club. That said, I enjoyed the book more than I expected too, although there were things that made me roll my eyes and things that troubled me.

    The treatment of sexual assault really bothered me, although I have to think about it more to explain it better than that.

    I think that Rory did grow, but I still found her almost unbearably naive at the end of the book. I was glad it ended w an hfn, but I still have trouble believing in the ending.

    My favorite parts were the humor – I’m still giggling over the sexy banana costume and the girl in the sexy Ernie costume.

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  2. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 10:38:30

    @cleo: The sexual assault issue in the first chapter? I guess I found that to be authentic. A girl gets a little drunk, starts to make out, and then withdraws. When the other person presses her, she is confused. The fight happens and she leaves with a guy she has a slight crush on. This all happens so quickly but seemed very real to me. I didn’t think it diminished the assault but rather set up Rory as a naive and inexperienced young woman but relatable. I’m not certain why she has to feel more upset about this. Those feelings of confusion seemed very natural.

    But in what way did you feel that Rory was naive? That they could have an HEA given what had proceeded or that she didn’t fully comprehend the challenges in front of her? Could you elaborate on that?

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  3. Lou
    May 15, 2013 @ 10:54:46

    I enjoyed True and thought it was a pretty solid for the most part. Rory and Tyler’s behaviour felt natural to me. I do think a lot of NAs are using sexual assault as a plot device, but I can’t see what went wrong in the first chapter. The hero does put a stop to it but he didn’t come charging in on a white horse, thumping his chest.

    The banana costume scene was funny :D. I loved the relationship between the girls and how strong their friendship was, especially when they all yelled at each other in the club lol.

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  4. Brie
    May 15, 2013 @ 10:57:48

    I think Ms. McCarthy has a clear idea of what New Adult is, and she was able to capture its essence. It certainly fits my definition of NA. So I liked that. I enjoyed the romance, silly premise and all, but even that was handled well (or as well as such a ridiculous setup allows it). Once Rory discovers that her friend paid Tyler, she’s hurt and insecure, but she also stops to think about their relationship and concludes that he can’t be faking his feelings. However, I’m getting tired of bad boys and virgins, and I’m disappointed that she never questioned her friends’ actions or even the moral implications of getting paid to have sex with someone. I mean, let’s picture the opposite situation: Rory is the one getting paid to have sex. I doubt she would be seen as a sexy, swoon-worthy, likable bad girl.

    What really bothered me was the depiction of poverty. I keep seeing the same stereotype over and over: the mother is an abusive addict, the kids don’t have anything to eat, the house is disgusting and dirty, etc. This was used to make Rory aware of her privilege, but a positive portrayal of poverty would have done the same.

    I also didn’t like the way Jayden, the brother with Down syndrome, was represented. Rory and Tyler treated him as they would a small child, when Jayden was supposed to be in his late teens, but of course, he also acted like a small child perpetually happy, so his character didn’t even reflect the reality of Down syndrome, but came from yet another stereotype.

    Re. the sexual abuse, I thought Rory’s reaction was authentic. I didn’t have an issue with it, besides the fact that it wasn’t dealt with in depth, although what happened does affect her later on in the book.

    At the end of the day, I was more offended than entertained. It’s not an awful book, and I liked the NA part of it, but I found it highly problematic.

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  5. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 11:05:33

    @Brie: I read your great review, Brie. (Link here for the curious: http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com/2013/05/review-true-by-erin-mccarthy.html)

    I didn’t have a problem with the portrayal of poverty at all. In fact, again, I felt like it a lent a lot of authenticity to the story. The messiness of their house represented to me the struggle that these two older siblings had in parenting their younger siblings. They were ill equipped to do so as young twenty year olds. They didn’t have the money or the time. Could the house have been cleaner? Sure, but to me it showed how Tyler was coping (as well as explain some of his own lifestyle choices) and served to highlight Rory’s privilege.

    I also thought it served to show that a loving household could be had in both circumstance, privilege and not as well off. In some ways, the ending was a beginning for me. Tyler and his brother beginning to get a feel for being the parents. Rory learning to stand on her own feet and make decisions for herself. Tyler understanding the repercussions of casual actions.

    I don’t disagree with the issue of the Downs’ syndrome portrayal. Just the interpretation on how poverty was used. You say that you see a lot of this in books and I’d be interested in what examples you have because one of the things I really liked about this book was not only the HFN ending but the disparate class. There are so many wealthy people in romances, or even just comfortably well off, that its rare in romance to see a “Tyler” like person placed in the hero’s role.

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  6. Ridley
    May 15, 2013 @ 11:10:19

    I’m not done reading this, or even sure that I’ll finish it, but I’m a few chapters in and think it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

    My biggest problems so far are with how the author is showing a fundamental misunderstanding of poverty, class and race in a way that makes the book unengaging. The narrating character says these privileged and/or ignorant statements as part of of POV as though to say “you know what I mean” to the reader, and, no, I’m not feeling you on this at all, Rory.

    Also, the writing gives me an eye twitch. “Fear flooded my mouth.” Flooded it with what? “I had long, dark-red hair, which made it easy for him to entwine his fingers to control my head and my neck, holding me so I couldn’t move.” Why is her hair color relevant? Is red hair easier to grab?

    So far McCarthy’s failed to create a believable young, college-set atmosphere and she’s using way too many fairly offensive shortcuts and cliches in the process. Maybe it gets better, but I doubt it.

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  7. Bronte
    May 15, 2013 @ 11:47:49

    On the whole I enjoyed this book. I didn’t have a problem with the way poverty was represented in the book. Yes the drug addict mother was cliched but served a fairly important plot point regarding Tyler and Rory’s relationship. Having grown up in poverty (but lucky enough to grow up in a country where welfare and relatively free education was available) the descriptions were similar to what I have personally experienced. On my block there were disgusting filthy houses, and then there were people who tried their best to keep what little they had clean and nice. Is it a stereotype? Perhaps but there is a reason the stereotype exists in the first place.

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  8. wikkidsexycool
    May 15, 2013 @ 12:07:42

    This book was an almost DNF, but I’m glad I read on.

    I had, and still have an issue with a phrase that was used early in the story, which I won’t repeat here. I also question whether Tyler asking Rory if she said no, when it appears he was right there in the kitchen and could see her head being forced onto Grant’s crouch was needed. Rory states “No! Please don’t!” Right before Tyler says “Let her go, Grant. Right now.”

    And he also argues with Grant by saying he won’t stay out of it, and that she said no.

    So for him to ask her a few sentences later, “Did you say no, Rory?” had me smh.

    The whole setup, complete with Barbie doll perfect looking friends who try to get Rory to loosen up so that she loses her virginity struck me as more of an uncomfortable plot device, and made me question the motives and mindset of her close friends.

    Tyler being the tattooed semi bad guy with a heart of gold with Rory, (who initially read as TSTL) could have come together without that. Later chapters with Rory were much better, but her innocence became a bit too much. While I personally don’t believe in sloppy seconds (as in sleeping with a guy who’s just banged your friend, especially since I didn’t see where any protection was being used or even mentioned throughout the book, though I read the pdf, so maybe I missed it or it was put in later, I don’t know) I would up quizzing my daughter for more info. The top answers I got were the morning after pill, the pill, and a condom.

    A pet peeve of mine is how virginity, or basically, if one hasn’t done it by a certain age, something is really wrong with that individual has become popular. I’m not comfortable with that trope, as it’s becoming as bad as the shaming of females who enjoy sex and don’t want commitment.

    And, I gotta say, the lack of diversity in the settings of some of the NA novels, even when set on a college campus is also troubling. There’s some cherry picking going on regarding slang and other social interests (not just in this book, but others I’ve read) where characters drop phrases or dance a certain way, etc, yet their world (like their book covers) make me wonder just where they picked up all this . . . uh, urban-ness? (sorry, I just can’t think of a more on point phrase) when there appears to be only one race represented in many of these novels. And no, I’m not trying to tell authors what they should write. But it would be nice to see a little more inclusiveness.

    Oh, and before I forget, the whole “It’s too cold and I’m too tired” to see you back to door after you’ve just escaped a sexual assault really rubbed me wrong. I think that’s when I stopped reading the first time, because I had to question just why Rory considered Jessica and Kylie her friends. And what happened to calling the police?

    Who’s to say he wouldn’t have tried it again, but perhaps with a different girl? It just read as if Grant was let go so that he could come back later and Rory could look dumbfounded when they spoke again (why wouldn’t she correct him when he once again, , so that in the sequel he shows up to cause problems for Jessica and Riley.

    So what did I like? The family interactions between Tyler and his family, and Rory and her family. But the book struck me as being incomplete, as if it were too short or either shortened (or things left out) to make way for the sequel.

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  9. leftcoaster
    May 15, 2013 @ 12:11:55

    I read the book and enjoyed it. Like I said on SMTB, I loved that the smart girl didn’t turn out to be stupid (hate that), I loved that the girls getting laid weren’t “sluts”, I loved that there were actual consequences for bad things happening that didn’t get magic wanded away, and I loved that the couple actually communicated. What I didn’t love was some immature behavior that I felt like was too immature for their age/life experience, the plot device mother and some of the “I know best because I’m the boy” stuff. I would totally read the next book in this series. I spent a few days afterwards thinking about the people that populated the book.

    I found the book really took me back to my undergrad years in it’s portrayal of casual approach to sex, recreational drug and alcohol use and the angsty emotional drama. I thought about people and parties I hadn’t thought about in 20 years and spend some time wondering how about how life can harden and make you less open and willing to experience something new as you get older.

    As for the poverty part, I grew up government cheese poor. I was always clean and fed, but lived in a trailer, wore clothes from Goodwill and got mocked a lot. We’d probably call it bullied today. College was the first time I really got to know people from a wealthier background then me. The portrayal of Rory and her ignorant assumptions but willingness to learn from her experiences was engaging to me. She reminded me of some friends I made in college and how I’d roll my eyes at some of the stuff that came out of their mouths. I could also relate to being good a school and how that becomes a refuge.

    From reading around on reactions to the book, I think enjoyment of the book rests on whether or not you get on with Rory’s voice. If you hated the first few chapters, I doubt you’d like the rest of the book.

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  10. wikkidsexycool
    May 15, 2013 @ 12:16:04

    I’m not able to get back in to edit my extremely long post (sorry, I didn’t mean it to be that long). But I meant to say “Oh, and before I forget, the whole “It’s too cold and I’m too tired” to see you back to the dorm after you’ve just escaped a sexual assault really rubbed me wrong.

    And also (why wouldn’t Rory correct Grant when he once again brought up Jessica and had a very wrong impression of her. I suppose it was needed so that in the sequel he shows up to cause problems for Jessica and Riley.

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  11. Bronte
    May 15, 2013 @ 12:18:33

    @wikkidsexycool: Condoms were mentioned in the version I read so maybe this is something that was added.

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  12. Has
    May 15, 2013 @ 12:22:40

    I enjoyed True and also felt it was a solid book and while there was a few issues with the ending. I found ended way too abruptly for me and also what happened with their mother was too convenient. And I definitely agree that a lot was left out because there is a sequel and I wished that was expanded a bit more.

    Overall, I didn’t see an issue with the poverty aspect and I am from an area which is deprived as well. I didn’t see anything wrong although you can argue it is a cliche but considering their mother was trashing the place despite the brothers cleaning up it was hard to keep up. I loved the brothers despite their dysfunctional environment stuck together and they lived up to their motto of being True – it worked for me. And I also liked that the heroine is unapologetic about her background and there is a great line in the book where she says that she wont apologise for that.

    The virginity thing – I wasn’t that keen on and it felt forced as well but I did love Rory’s friend Jessica who was upfront and unashamed about her sexuality and no slutshaming! Especially in contrast with the innocent and naive heroine – that is a huge trope in YA and creeping in NA which I am not a fan of. So that was cool to see that being portrayed.

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  13. Brie
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:36:32

    @Jane: I agree that Tyler’s home life served to highlight Rory’s privilege and to make her aware of it, but this could have been accomplished with a positive portrayal of poverty. Why not show how hard people have to work to get just a fraction of what was so easily given to her? I felt like this extreme situation was exploited to enhance the drama. At the end of the book, Rory was self-aware, but she also pitied Tyler and his family. The whole thing didn’t sit well with me.

    “You say that you see a lot of this in books and I’d be interested in what examples you have because one of the things I really liked about this book was not only the HFN ending but the disparate class.”

    Right now, I don’t have an example of other books that use disparate class issues to create awareness in one of the characters, but books like Heart on a Chain, Sophie and Carter, and even Katie McGarry’s novels use similar portrayals of poverty, neglect and abuse to an extent in their plots. I would like to see something different for a change, especially because I can’t come up with a single example of a book where poverty was depicted under a positive light. And FYI, I’m aware that those might not be the best examples, because 1. they are all YA and 2. poverty doesn’t play a main role in most of them, but it’s a persistent theme in lots of similar stories. Also, I have enjoyed all the books I mention, so I’m probably part of the problem.

    @Bronte: Stereotypes exist because of preconceived, ignorant notions perpetuated by inaccurate, lazy portrayals like the ones in this book.

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  14. cleo
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:39:58

    @Jane: I’ve had some time to think about it – we’ll see how coherent I am.

    My main problem with the sexual assault in the first chapter is that there weren’t enough consequences for my taste – maybe it’s completely believable that no one thought to call the police or report Grant to someone, or even *talk* about it with a grown-up later, but it still bothered me. And as wikkidsexycool said, wth was up with her friends letting her go home without them? The creepy conversation with Grant later in the book *really* bothered me – it wasn’t enough for me for him to feel kind of bad and then try to blame her. Again, maybe completely believable behavior, but not what I want to read.

    It also really bothered me when that frat guy hit on Rory during girls night and was rescued by Tyler. That’s when sexual assault started to seem like a cheap plot device to show what a stand up guy Tyler is. I can see why this wouldn’t bother everybody, but I know too many women who were sexually assaulted in college to want to read about it taken so lightly. (I was in a support group in college for survivors of sex’l abuse and assault – I was abused but a few of the girls in the group were raped or assaulted while in college).

    I normally don’t read NA because I teach college students and it’s really hard to turn off my professional self reading these books, so it ends up not being restful or escapist for me. After reading the sample, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what I’d say if a student told me a similar story. I mostly read this book because I thought the discussion would be good and I wanted to participate in it.

    Having said all that, I can see why other people enjoyed this book and why Jane choose it for book club, but overall it didn’t work for me.

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  15. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:43:45

    @Brie: I guess I disagree with your characterization of Tyler’s homelife as inaccurate and lazy. At least two commenters in this thread have said that not only are they familiar with that type of lifestyle but may have lived it.

    I’m not unfamiliar with this type of poverty myself. Having read McGarry’s work, only the basement of Isaac’s house reminds me of something that was messy but it was his basement and his hangout so I don’t see much similarities there. And Sophie and Carter, wherein the two kids were taking care of their inept parents, I recall both houses being well kept and not messy.

    Is it that you dislike poverty in a story? Or feel that it is used as a device? I don’t see it that way. I felt that in all three of those books: True, Sophie and Carter, and Katie McGarry’s books, that poverty was treated with respect and not diminishment. If you can’t present poverty in all various representations from sloppy to pristine then is it because that’s a taboo subject?

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  16. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:45:54

    @cleo: So I guess what I’m hearing you say (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that you don’t want to see sexual assault in a book without there being negative repercussions to the assaulter? Without there being a message to the reader that in this situation you do X and not Y?

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  17. Moriah Jovan
    May 15, 2013 @ 13:50:05

    Just following along, but, having come from a loving, stable, CLEAN home life (mom with OCD) that was also poverty-stricken, my home was an anomaly, a vast outlier amongst the poverty-stricken area I lived in.

    There is no such thing as positive poverty.

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  18. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:03:49

    @cleo: Oh, I wanted to say thank you for buying it to participate in the book club! Maybe next month’s book will be more to your liking?

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  19. Robin/Janet
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:08:36

    @cleo:
    The treatment of sexual assault really bothered me, although I have to think about it more to explain it better than that.

    You obviously haven’t fully articulated your issues, so I’m not rebutting your reaction here. I just want to say that having worked with this age group for quite a few years (in a higher ed context) and having worked on a number of sexual assault cases with this age group, I actually found that part of the story to be pretty on target. I’m bound by confidentiality, so I can’t share any particular stories, but I think many would be astounded by the range of issues and reactions from both men and women in these situations. Whenever we talk about women acting in ways that don’t seem to match the circumstances, I think that’s basically x 10 for college-aged women.

    @Lou:
    I do think a lot of NAs are using sexual assault as a plot device

    Of all the places in the Romance genre for that device to be appropriate, I think this is it. Especially with the rise of substance use and abuse on college campuses, which amplifies these issues to an astonishing degree. Unfortunately, because sexual assault is so often exploited in the genre, I think it’s a tougher sell than it might otherwise be, even though I think in this context it can be very meaningfully utilized (and, of course, abused, as all devices are/can be).

    @wikkidsexycool: So for him to ask her a few sentences later, “Did you say no, Rory?” had me smh.

    I read this completely differently — that is, I read it as Tyler asking this as a way to confirm to Grant that she DID say no, not as an interrogation of Rory or an indication that he didn’t hear her. In other words, as a rebuke to Grant and a reinforcement of Rory’s lack of consent.

    A pet peeve of mine is how virginity, or basically, if one hasn’t done it by a certain age, something is really wrong with that individual has become popular. I’m not comfortable with that trope, as it’s becoming as bad as the shaming of females who enjoy sex and don’t want commitment.

    Despite my own issues with this book, one of the things I really liked about it was that there was no slut shaming IMO. In fact, one of the things I thought about when I read this was how much more I enjoyed the virginity device here than I did in Dimitry’s Closet, which I finally slogged through and have not yet recovered from the way that book both creeped me out and enraged me (re. reproduction of racial, cultural, gender stereotypes in ways that managed to exceed my relatively advanced cynicism).

    Oh, and before I forget, the whole “It’s too cold and I’m too tired” to see you back to door after you’ve just escaped a sexual assault really rubbed me wrong. I think that’s when I stopped reading the first time, because I had to question just why Rory considered Jessica and Kylie her friends. And what happened to calling the police?

    As I noted above, having spent many years in higher education, this struck me as incredibly realistic. Now that goes to many secondary issues around sexual assault, issues which are historically persistent and very problematic. But in terms of the book, I found that aspect (sadly) realistic.

    @Brie:

    At the end of the day, I was more offended than entertained. It’s not an awful book, and I liked the NA part of it, but I found it highly problematic.

    I’ve found that for me a lot of these books that push certain boundaries often flop back and forth over the line of objectionable. For some readers, there will be more objectionable material, while for others there will be less, but I wonder if this is all part of the process of growing the genre.

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  20. Brie
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:13:08

    @Jane: I’m not saying that poverty shouldn’t be portrayed or that it’s taboo; I’m saying that I would like to see positive depictions (and by positive I mean hard-working, loving and caring people). It’s not all addiction, abuse and untidiness. I’m not saying those things don’t happen, but that they are not all there is to it. The same people who found the poverty in the book presented in a realistic way, also mention that there’s another side to that coin (even if it is an anomaly), so why not show that one for a change?

    I read those books months ago, so maybe I’m getting the facts wrong, but in Pushing the Limits Noah’s foster parents were neglectful and Beth’s mother was an addict and they were living in a poor side of town, right?

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  21. Ridley
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:14:16

    @Jane: Constantly showing poverty as the result of poor choices made by gross people reinforces this idea that poor people are lazy and responsible for their misfortune.

    I grew up in a poor city and I live in one now. My neighbors run the gamut between kept up real nice and dept. of health violation. I find bottles of urine semi-regularly in my yard that my neighbor throws from the window of his illegal apartment aiming for their trashcans. The neighbor across from us grows all their own food. The neighbor next to them keeps chickens named after silver screen movie stars.

    My point is that I live here and can tell you that poor or working-class people aren’t a monolith. Most are hard-working people. My father worked hard six days a week as a plumber and all it got him was a 1 bedroom apartment in a rough neighborhood and a cemetery plot at 61. My own house was a mess growing up because my mom worked two jobs and my brother and I both worked, and the hell with dishes and laundry. My filthy neighbor? He’s disabled and making do with what he has. The poor people of this city the rest of MA mocks with a rhyme? Most are working multiple shitty jobs.

    That’s what bothers me about True and other books featuring poverty. It’s not the squalor, per se, it’s this reasoning that poor people do it to themselves and need to be saved or mentored or whatever by middle-class people. That’s not reality.

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  22. cleo
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:20:55

    @Jane:

    So I guess what I’m hearing you say (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that you don’t want to see sexual assault in a book without there being negative repercussions to the assaulter? Without there being a message to the reader that in this situation you do X and not Y?

    I think it’d be more accurate to say that because of my background, I don’t generally enjoy reading books where there aren’t neg consequences, rather than say I don’t want to see those books exist at all. I think I could like a book where there weren’t negative consequences for someone who committed assault, if the book took the assault itself seriously and it was well done (and I had time to work myself up to reading it).

    That idea of taking it seriously is probably a better explanation for why the sexual assault didn’t work for me in this book (once again, I figure out what I think as I write about it) – I don’t feel like the book took the assault very seriously – it felt like it was used as a plot device to get the main characters together and that the book would have worked the same if some other “get them together” plot device replaced the assault. I hope this makes sense, I’m still figuring it out.

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  23. cleo
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:33:18

    @Jane: I’m looking forward to Heart of Obsidian! I’ve read all the psy/changeling books and I’ve enjoyed the DA reviews of the last couple. No one I know IRL reads this series and it’s one I enjoy talking about.

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  24. wikkidsexycool
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:40:24

    @Bronte,

    Sorry, I should have been clearer and I stand corrected. I should have stated that while condoms are mentioned, when Rory and Tyler actually make love, (first time and later in the book) there’s no mention of him using them (which, if this is your first time and it’s being told in the first person, I would think it would be). However, I believe it was on this very site (somebody help me out here if you can recall the post) regarding why using protection is not referenced often in romance novels. But yes, Tyler mentions condoms, and I just did a search for the word and it’s in the pdf several times.

    But I also want to bring up this line by Tyler:

    “No, you’re not. A retard is someone who is stupid and you are not stupid, do you understand me?”

    Now, I get that the character of Tyler is trying to give comfort. But I was hoping this line wasn’t in the final ebook (again, I’m reading from the pdf and I’m not sure if that’s the final product).

    I also just saw that Easton is bi-racial, but missed it the first time because that’s when I again put the book down after reading Tyler’s statement.

    My mistake, I should have read the entire book over again before posting.

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  25. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 14:43:58

    @Brie: Yes, Beth, Isaiah, and Noah all live with Beth’s aunt and uncle. But I liked the presentation of the foster family in that book. Isaiah and Noah’s experience was bad but Noah’s brothers’ experience was not.

    I’m not saying your opinion is invalid, of course, just that I didn’t see the poverty issue in those books as lazy and inaccurate. Could there be more variety? Of course but I’m not ready to judge these presentations as all of one kind when we are but a year into the stories of these nature. And like I said before, romances so rarely depict this at all except to show Harlequin Presents heroines saved by the rich billionaire.

    What’s a bit ironic is that the other day I saw someone complaining about all the rich kids in New Adult books. So I think seeing some not so rich kids have their own stories told is a refreshing change.

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  26. Isobel Carr
    May 15, 2013 @ 15:13:28

    Rory seems like a really hard name to use for a privileged young girl in a YA or NA without dragging along an excess of Gilmore Girls baggage. People were talking on Twitter yesterday or the day before about Googleing character names to make sure you weren’t using a well-known one. This is totally that case for me.

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  27. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 15:17:48

    @Isobel Carr – eh, disagree. First names are first names. If you put it together with a last name then I think it can have an affect. But, what, you can’t have an action hero with the first name James? How about a movie star with the name Natalie? Rory from Gilmore Girls isn’t a famous one name person like Madonna, Cher, or even Angelina.

    And frankly, it’s not *that* well known. It was on cable. It was aired from 2000-2007 per Wiki.

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  28. cleo
    May 15, 2013 @ 15:45:30

    @wikkidsexycool: Yes, that line is in the final version, or at least in the epub version I have.

    I had the same reaction about the condoms. Yes, they talked about them and I actually did assume that they used them the first time, since she gave him the box of condoms. But there was one sex scene where I kept saying to myself “wait, don’t forget the condom, omg did they forget the condom?” – that’s after she posts his bail and they spend the night in Bill’s room.

    I kind of remember reading something about birth control in romance (maybe here) – that readers will assume condom use if they’re mentioned in the story but not necessarily in the actual sex scene. But I’m too literal – I usually assume that if a condom wasn’t mentioned during sex, a condom wasn’t used.

    I did enjoy her birth control conversation with her Dad’s girlfriend, although if I were Susan, I would have asked her specifically what kind of birth control she was using, not just if she was using it. I love that you quizzed your daughter about birth control options.

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  29. leftcoaster
    May 15, 2013 @ 16:25:45

    In my reading of “True” the squalor is presented as due to two kids (ok, one kid, one person with developmental issues) being at home a lot with a strung-out addict/mental health issues mama who doesn’t clean or cook. The older brothers are working and in school towards the aim of taking care of the younger brothers. The squalor is not presented as due to laziness, and the older brothers are working towards saving themselves, they have a plan. That’s the whole freakin plot besides the romance and I found that one of the most touching aspects of the book. Poverty takes away a lot of options and they were working with what they had, trying to do right by their younger sibs, within the confines of their world.

    The middle class heroine doesn’t save them, but she does cook for them a few times when the hero was busy in class. I didn’t find that to be a problem.

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  30. Readsalot81
    May 15, 2013 @ 16:38:42

    @Jane : Errr, Wiki is wrong. Sorry. Gilmore Girls aired on the the network known now as the CW – only in 2000 it called the WB (Warner Bros). It was network television, not cable. I watched that show growing up.

    Eh, as far as the name goes. A name is just a name, I’m in agreement with you there. But on the show, Rory is a privileged, college aged girl who is involved with a guy that is certainly less privileged, and I *could* see how some readers might make the connection from the book to the show.

    As an aside, I did read the book. While I cannot claim to love the book, I didn’t have a serious dislike for it either.

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  31. Isobel Carr
    May 15, 2013 @ 16:44:28

    @Jane: A) no, it wasn’t a cable show. B) it was a very popular show, esp for the demographic YA/NA is aimed at. C) Obviously YMMV, but it would be VERY distracting for me.

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  32. Bronte
    May 15, 2013 @ 16:48:09

    @Brie: I understand what you are trying to get at here – I think (correct me if I am wrong) that you would like poverty presented in a more complex manner than “my mum is a drug addict and that’s why we’re poor”. I guess my experience is that there are elements of the positive and the negative. The reality of my experience is that we were poor because my Mum was mentally ill and my dad was in and out of jail and rarely around. The positive for me was that my Mum is fairly high functioning so the house was clean and what little we had was looked after. There were also no drugs or alcohol at our house. The negatives for me was that I was emotionally and occasionally physically abused, and all around me I saw lots of alcohol, drug and sexual abuse. There was also a lot of mental illness which I think is something that is rarely portrayed when poverty and abuse (running both ways as in being both victim and abuser) are discussed in fiction. Although I had to make the right choices to leave that environment behind and choose not to perpetuate the cycle I did not do that in a vacuum – I had teachers, biological relatives, and eventually wonderful foster parents that played a big role in my life. To me its not about them “saving” me, but without their actions I doubt I would be where I am now. To sum up I didn’t have a problem with this specific portrayal of poverty, but I do understand that there are other ways to describe it. I get frustrated when all I see in fiction is the “evil” foster parents because that definitely wasn’t my experience but I know it does happen. I think the same can be said about the abusive drug addict mother here.

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  33. Ridley
    May 15, 2013 @ 16:48:55

    @leftcoaster: That speaks to my point: Tyler’s family is poor because of their mother’s bad decisions and bad character. It continues to frame being poor as being a failure, and clings to the idea that one can work and choose their way to affluence.

    It’s just another frustrating example of ignoring how hard life is for many poor Americans despite working very hard to get by. It’s exasperating to always see poverty equated with personal failure and dysfunctional families.

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  34. Bronte
    May 15, 2013 @ 17:03:07

    @Ridley: I think there are geographical differences in this area. In Australia where there is universal health care and close to free education, as well as a highly developed welfare system (that includes significant middle class welfare) I think you are talking a very different demographic to the US. Also Australia has very high minimum wage conditions which means basically if you are working you will at least be lower middle class. That definitely doesn’t make you rich by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not what I would define as poverty. This is a quote lifted directly from a 2012 report on poverty from Australia: . “For example, 63.3% of people in
    unemployed households were living below to 50% poverty line and 73.2% lived
    below the 60% poverty line” so at least where I’m from there is a direct link between being unemployed and poverty. I am not saying that unemployed people are lazy and should just go and get a job – there are many reasons why people are unemployed and I understand it is complex, but I do think these geographical differences play into how we look at poverty.

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  35. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 17:11:25

    @readsalot81 – huh I had no idea CW was considers network TV. I don’t get that station without a cable or satellite subscription.

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  36. Ridley
    May 15, 2013 @ 17:29:47

    @Bronte: Yeah, things are different in the US, where this book is set. Many people who work full-time still rely on government aid and/or charity to get enough to eat. Between outrageous housing costs and the price of health insurance, few people have any money left to save, leaving them vulnerable if they get ill (no mandated sick pay or leave), pregnant (no mandated paid maternity leave) or lose their job.

    Bad luck and a myriad of policies and pressures are why many people struggle. I’m not interested in yet another story selling the bootstrap myth.

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  37. Ros
    May 15, 2013 @ 17:57:44

    @Ridley: I was horrified when I first realised that there is no statutory sick leave/maternity leave etc. in the US. Makes it incredibly hard for people to get out of poverty if they lose their job in those situations.

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  38. hapax
    May 15, 2013 @ 18:05:21

    I guess I see poverty portrayed in a lot of romance — heckopete, in a lot of fiction, period — the same way sexual assault is: as a plot and character shortcut, rather than a serious issue with complicated causes and consequences.

    Yes, like sexual assault, poverty is a thing that really happens, more often than most people are aware. People can live in poverty for many different reasons, ranging from bad choices to bad luck to a bad socioeconomic system, and can respond in just as many different ways.

    What rubs me wrong is not when it’s portrayed in any particular way, or with any particular effect, that I don’t like; it’s when the author seems to use it as a cheat: “Oh, I need an angsty background for the heroine; let’s toss in a rape!” “Oh, I need the hero to have an obstacle to overcome; I know, his mother’s a drug addict!” “Gee, what could keep my couple apart? Of course, she’s a rich kid, he comes from squalor!”

    I’m not saying that McCarthy did or did not take this route in This Particular Novel; but I’ve seen enough of it (too much of it in YA and NA, as well as PNR for some reason) that perhaps I’ve become a tetch over-sensitized to it.

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  39. Jane
    May 15, 2013 @ 18:58:35

    @hapax: I’m not sure if you are saying that poverty shouldn’t be used in fiction or whether you don’t like the way it is used in a particular book? I think that with most “devices”, they are used and reused because there are only so many tropes and stories to be told.

    In all of the examples that Brie cited (except for Heart on a Chain which I liked but I can’t remember the exact details of), poverty had very real implications on people’s lives and what I liked was that there wasn’t any billionaire to save them. In Sophie and Carter, they managed to untangle themselves from their parents but their future was as two high school students trying to make a family for their younger siblings. In True, somewhat the same thing can be said. In Katie McGarry’s book, Noah’s dream is to become a manager at his local restaurant so that he can provide for his brothers.

    In all three circumstances, unlike in many romances, these young people are struggling to make ends meet and still find happiness within those confines. It some ways maybe these are stories that can only be told in YA/NA because if a 40 year lost his job, became a felon, and had to look for alternative ways to support himself, it is a lot less believable.

    In the last Brenda Novak book I read, the hero was a vagrant. He worked odd jobs, had a shitty ass motorcycle and all his belongings in his backpack. The heroine had a stable job as a photographer. I liked that book because I felt it stepped outside the norm of what I usually read. That’s kind of how I feel about True with its hookups, casual drug use, and HFN ending.

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  40. Kaetrin
    May 15, 2013 @ 23:47:42

    @wikkidsexycool: Haven’t read all the comments yet, but FWIW I thought when Tyler said “Did you say no Rory?” he was asking a question to which he already knew the answer. ie, he was asking her but talking to Grant. That was my take anyway.

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  41. Kaetrin
    May 15, 2013 @ 23:57:06

    @Ridley: I disagree. I read it not as Tyler’s mother’s fault at all. I was actually pleasantly surprised she had a bit of nuance to her. Tyler treated her fairly gently for the most part and clearly loved her even though she was a cow. His dad ran her over with the car and she was severely injured and then became addicted to pain killers. I didn’t see that as her bad choices, more as bad luck, shitty health care and the poverty cycle continuing. That’s my take anyway.

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  42. Kaetrin
    May 16, 2013 @ 00:12:50

    Okay, have caught up on all the comments now.

    I wanted to say that I thought the sexual assault was very authentic and so was the reaction to it.

    The book was heading to B- territory for me – I like the non slut shaming, I liked the author’s style and found the book very engaging. I didn’t like the “de-virginising” set up. That felt forced and lame to me. I could have done without it all together. The book would have been stronger for it IMO. But even with that, I was enjoying the story quite a bit.

    But what made it a C for me in the end was that I was too unhappy about Tyler’s circumstances at the close of the story. I had some issues with things like whether it was an illegal search (although my knowledge of the law in the US about this is based on the legal dissection of Jay-Z’s 99 reasons that DA linked to a while back), I didn’t get enough information about his legal advice but it seemed really poor to me (this is based on the law here though) and overall, I felt that Tyler was worse off at the end of the book than at the beginning. For me, the HEA/HFN needed to be more than just about Rory and Tyler being together. Tyler had lost so much and *I* wasn’t over it. I suppose this kind of thing happens and way worse (West Texas 3 for example) but if it had to be in the book, I needed more information about how Tyler was coping and what his new plan was etc to be comfortable about the ending. What I really wanted was for a kick ass public defender to get stuck in so Tyler didn’t have his future thrown away by his shitty mother (I stopped feeling ANY sympathy for her when she (figuratively) threw her son under the bus.) In fact, by then, with Tyler being so close to graduating, I would have been happy for him to turn her in. If that meant a short separation from his brothers I think it would have been a better trade off and a happier ending. And, not all foster care is evil and abusive.
    I’m not sure how the author can explore Tyler’s future that well or closely in the next book as it is told from Jessica’s POV, so I’m not convinced I will get that closure. I am planning to read it though. I liked a lot about it, but the ending was too sad for me even though the couple ended up together.

    Even though I grew up in a poor area, my own home life was settled and I really have no direct experience with the kind of poverty that’s expressed in the book so maybe it wasn’t possible for Tyler to have the kind of ending I wanted him to have. But it still left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth because I really felt he deserved better. And I read romance for the HEA so I want my heroes and heroines to get a happy HEA dammit!! :)

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  43. hapax
    May 16, 2013 @ 09:58:46

    @Jane:

    I’m not sure if you are saying that poverty shouldn’t be used in fiction or whether you don’t like the way it is used in a particular book?

    Arghhh! I typed a long rambling response but my computer eated it. Probably for the best.

    The short version, however, is that I don’t think that there’s any device that SHOULDN’T be used. It all depends on whether it “feels” like a natural outgrowth of character and plot or an artificial creator (or resolution) of conflict.

    And of course that’s terribly subjective; no author is going to say that s/he ever put in anything that didn’t need to be in the story. A lot of the reader’s response to a particular device is going to be determined by things outside of the author’s control, like whether or not it seems like every other book has been using the same device.

    But I would say that the more serious, gritty, potentially trigger-y a trope is — and the more likely that it’s going to be something that readers have personally experienced–the more careful that authors have to be to make sure that their use of the trope is natural and authentic, rather than a cheap and easy way to ramp up the angst.

    I can’t speak to Tyler’s background in TRUE because I couldn’t finish it for other reasons (I did try!), but I can give an example of an author who seemed to me to use the device of dire poverty really well, naturally and realistically, and that’s Mayberry’s SUDDENLY YOU.

    (Yeah, this is the SHORT version. Aren’t you glad the long one got lost?)

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  44. Ridley
    May 16, 2013 @ 10:42:43

    @Jane: You know, Jane, I’d love to know why you’re so intent on responding to every criticism of this book. You’ve commented twice as much in this thread as you did in all the previous book club discussions combined.

    Also, what makes the stereotypes and legal errors in this book so excusable when similar elements in Joan Swan’s book Fever led you to tear that book apart? What’s the difference?

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  45. leftcoaster
    May 16, 2013 @ 11:38:43

    @Kaetrin, I hear you about feeling dissatisfied with the ending…that’s why I find it kind of humorous that some of the criticisms by people who haven’t read the whole book are that it follows some Horatio Algers bullshit plotline. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the idea that one can work and choose their way to affluence pretty much gets blown up….and I really respected the book for that, and it upped my grade, whereas it made yours go down. Just goes to show that readers can have very different expectations about their HEAs, huh? I do hope the we get to hear more in second book about the fallout from what happens in the first one.

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  46. Ridley
    May 16, 2013 @ 11:54:56

    @leftcoaster: Again, Tyler’s choice/his mother’s behavior is what cheats him out of a future, albeit with an assist from shitty US drug policy. My problem with the plotline is that it’s unnecessary drama for the sake of drama and it uses a tired cliche of poverty to do it. You could have told a story of two kids making a go of it under tough circumstances without it. Really, just having a drug-addicted, mentally-ill mother and siblings who are dependent on him is enough. That right there is almost insurmountable economically and it doesn’t rely on Tyler foolishly getting caught with his mother’s drugs and stupidly pleading guilty.

    Also, that whole plotline was bullshit. 1. They don’t send white kids to prison for first-offense possession. 2. It takes a hell of a lot longer than two weeks for the legal process. 3. That search was pretty illegal, imo, and I don’t buy a street-savvy kid like Tyler submitting to it so easily.

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  47. Meri
    May 16, 2013 @ 12:17:23

    I haven’t read the True, and based on the discussion here and other reviews I’m still undecided on whether I want to. Maybe I’ll wait and see where she goes with the next one first.

    @wikkidsexycool:

    A pet peeve of mine is how virginity, or basically, if one hasn’t done it by a certain age, something is really wrong with that individual has become popular. I’m not comfortable with that trope, as it’s becoming as bad as the shaming of females who enjoy sex and don’t want commitment.

    Thank you for pointing this out. Sometimes it seems as though there is an accepted range of of sexual experience, and women (sometimes men as well) on either side of it are being shamed. Slut shaming is wrong. Virgin shaming is equally wrong. There isn’t a single approach to sexuality that’s right for everyone.

    @Ridley:
    1. They send a lot of people to prison for first time drug offenses. Even white kids. Certainly poor ones. 2. True 3. As noted above, I haven’t read the book so I can’t say, but there are a lot of questionable searches that are still used as evidence in drug cases – drug policy in the US (and sometimes in other countries) being what it is.

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  48. Ridley
    May 16, 2013 @ 12:40:24

    @Meri: I’ve known A LOT of kids who’ve been arrested for drug possession. Every single one got probation for the first offense. Including the one caught distributing cocaine in a high school. Granted that’s not a scientific sample size, but it’s enough that I was yelling “OH, COME ON” when he was sentenced to prison for having 8 friggin oxy pills on him.

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  49. wikkidsexycool
    May 16, 2013 @ 16:20:00

    @Meri,

    The book would have been stronger imho without the virgin shaming. Something felt off to me, and it was probably when Rory’s friends decided almost getting sexually assaulted should then lead to hooking her up with a hot guy so she could lose her virginity that way.

    Mind you, these are the same friends who couldn’t accompany Rory back to their dorm after her near escape from a guy who’d been verbally abusive as well as physical (he kicks Rory in anger after his assault is stopped by Tyler).

    The author did a good job showing Rory’s fear, insecurity and awkwardness. But then I had to wonder why these girls were even friends after Kylie and Jessica’s decisions that night (especially after all the angry smack they talked, but still let her go back to the dorm alone), and later when they approached Tyler with an offer of payment if he’d deflower Rory.

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  50. Jane
    May 16, 2013 @ 16:53:37

    @Meri – IIRC, Tyler wasn’t sent to prison but rather to jail. It’s not an uncommon thing at all for even first time offenders to receive some type of jail time. Whether a kid gets charged and what degree all depends on the prosecutor and what kind of lawyer the kid has (in this case, a public defender). 30 days and a $1500 fine is a fairly light sentence for criminal drug possession.

    @wikkidsexycool – Given that Rory herself wanted to lose her virginity, I’m not sure I see how she was shamed at all. The bet thing was stupid, no question, and definitely the weaker parts of the book. But I didn’t see virgin shaming, or Rory being shamed because she was a virgin. I recall her friends being pretty stricken when called on the bet thing. I’d rather have the set up in True than in many other books where virginity is fetishized.

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  51. wikkidsexycool
    May 16, 2013 @ 18:57:28

    @Jane,

    “I’d rather have the set up in True than in many other books where virginity is fetishized.”

    Well, all I can do is refer to the book. Rory’s inner thoughts after her near sexual assault and Grant’s parting shot:

    “He was right. No one wanted me. But that didn’t mean I could be treated like s***. It didn’t mean I wasn’t a person, that I should toss over my dignity and accept whatever attention I got, no matter how selfish and crude it was.”

    After Rory admits to being a virgin, Jessica asks:

    “So you want like, romance?”
    And Rory says, “I guess so.”

    Jessica then lets Tyler know that Rory wants romance, and asks what he thinks of that.

    Now, at that point I figure Jessica knows something, say like that Tyler had expressed an in interest in Rory. But that’s never followed up. Instead, after a night of partying, their (Kylie and Jessica’s) reasons for offering to pay Tyler to service Rory are:

    1) To “help with her confidence.” 2) “she’ll be able to put herself out there more once she’s gotten over this whole ‘I’m a shy girl virgin’ role. Because I don’t think that’s her.”

    So, to review, her two “friends” virtually pimp their other friend Tyler out, not for a date, and not to see it they will hit it off, but so Rory could lose her virginity is, in my mind, saying that her virginity is some sort of problem, because with it, she’s less confident and she needs to reveal the real Rory.

    So they took it upon themselves to decide the who, and possibly the when. Making them sound a bit selfish, and their plan, kinda crude.

    In addition, they don’t tell her of their plan. But if the deal with Tyler was no big deal, then why even keep it a secret?

    And also, isn’t this a case of the magic johnson? Whereby if Rory just gets laid, all will be right in her world. Because somehow, being a virgin is so not cool/not a confidence builder.

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  52. Jane
    May 16, 2013 @ 19:03:36

    @wikkidsexycool: I just had a different read on those scenes that you do. Those excerpts don’t read as virgin shaming to me. For instance, the excerpt that you quoted actually includes one of the male characters acknowledging that “lots of girls” make the “choice” to be virgins and that’s okay. Here’s the whole scene:

    “Your first time? Wait a minute, are you saying you’re a virgin?” Jessica was staring at me blankly. “For real?”

    Oops. I hadn’t really meant to share that. It wasn’t exactly a deep dark secret and it really couldn’t have been that much of a shock to her, but it wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to go around talking about. “Um. Yes. I just haven’t…”
    Had the opportunity.

    “There hasn’t been anyone…” I reached for the beer Tyler had abandoned and took a sip. I was drunk, but not nearly enough to not suddenly feel completely and totally middle school mortified.

    “Oh.” Kylie looked bewildered. “Well, that’s cool. Lots of girls make that choice.”

    “It hasn’t been a choice. Not exactly. I mean, if I could, I think I would.” I did. Just no one to explore them with. In a way that wasn’t a quickie on the stained carpet.

    “Well, why can’t you?” Jessica asked.

    “Because no one is offering. I guess technically Grant offered, but I don’t want it like that.” I was sorry I’d brought it up at all. It wasn’t a discussion I wanted to have with Tyler and Nathan a few feet away.

    “So you want, like, romance?”

    Was that what we called it? “I guess.”

    So later when Jessica suspects that being the shy virgin isn’t Rory’s thing it stems from Rory’s own early admission that she’d like to have a sexual experience but isn’t sure how to go about getting that.

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  53. wikkidsexycool
    May 16, 2013 @ 19:31:40

    @Jane,

    I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Because once Rory finds out, and is crying in the shower and thinks “I regret that my roommates felt someone had to be paid to want to stick his dick in me. That didn’t boost my confidence about my desirability and reminded me of Grants parting words – that no one wanted me.”

    I read it as it wasn’t so much that she wanted to lose her virginity, but she was looking for what just about everyone wants. To be wanted by someone, a someone who’d let her be herself. Having physical closeness or cuddling, and not just to have sex, but to make love.

    Unfortunately, the first part of the book focused on her losing it, when it wasn’t really necessary, to me.

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  54. wikkidsexycool
    May 16, 2013 @ 19:46:32

    Oops! Sorry.
    That above quote isn’t what she thought in the shower, but what she thinks the next morning, when Kylie and Jessica believe she’s slept with Tyler and ask for details.

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