Monday, July 19, 2010

Hello, Groin, by Beth Goobie

Title:  Hello, Groin
Author:  Beth Goobie
Publisher:  Orca Book Publishers
Year: 2006
Pages: 271
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Age Level:  8th-12th Grade

Plot Summary:
Dylan just wants to be normal.  She blames her bad hormones for the fact that instead of having sexual feelings for her popular, good-looking boyfriend, she instead has them towards her best friend, Joc.  Dylan tries to be turned on my Cam, but when she kisses a girl impulsively at a school dance she realizes that there is no going back for her.  While Dylan is working out her inner turmoil, she is also working on a book display for her school library.  Everyone thinks that her idea of a male and female cut-out covered in book titles is a great idea-until the principal sees the titles that she chooses to place over the cut-outs' groins.  He orders them removed, and this small act of censorship propels Dylan to develop and articulate her belief that whatever we are in our hearts and minds is also expressed through our sexuality.  It won't be easy, but Dylan knows she has no choice but to be true to herself.

This novel is a frank and honest look at one teen's journey to self-acceptance.  Dylan is not saddled with some of the same prejudices against homosexuality that plague the main characters of other books in this genre.  She even acknowledges and approves of the out lesbians at her school.  But when it comes to herself and her feelings she is ambivalent.  She loves her best friend, Joc, and is worried that her feelings for her will destroy that friendship.  She is concerned that her friends, the popular crowd that admitted her to their ranks as the girlfriend of one of the cutest boys in school, will reject her when they know.  She's worried that her family will feel differently about her.  Goobie does a good job of describing Dylan's inner life in a way that makes the reader really connect with her.  

Some reviewers have expressed a negative opinion about the fact that Dylan's coming out ends up being fairly rosy, but I would hope that as time goes on, and more and more people see that being gay is not something that is shameful or undesirable, more teens will have the same positive coming out experience that Dylan has.  I like the fact that the gay characters in this book do not turn out to be tragic.  It seems like in earlier literature with gay characters they are always the ones who end up alone, as though they have to pay for whatever happiness living truthfully briefly brings them.  The book's rather explicit sexual references make it one that is most suitable for older readers, but you can't fault the author for using Dylan's sexual feelings and experiences to set the stage for her decisions.  Teenagers are sexual beings, and to ignore that fact is to miss important opportunities for discussing sexuality and relationships is a way that will help them be healthy and happy.   

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