– SPOILER FREE REVIEW –
Author: Lindsey Rosin
Genre: YA, Romance
Release date: August 16th, 2016
| Add to Goodreads |
In this honest, frank, and funny debut novel, four best friends make a pact during their senior year of high school to lose their virginities—and end up finding friendship, love, and self-discovery along the way.
To be honest, the sex pact wasn’t always part of the plan.
Layla started it. She announced it super casually to the rest of the girls between bites of frozen yogurt, as if it was just simply another addition to her massive, ever-evolving To Do List. She is determined to have sex for the first time before the end of high school. Initially, the rest of the crew is scandalized, but, once they all admit to wanting to lose their v-cards too, they embark on a quest to do the deed together… separately.
Layla’s got it in the bag. Her serious boyfriend, Logan, has been asking for months. Alex has already done it. Or so she says. Emma doesn’t know what the fuss is all about, but sure, she’ll give it a shot. And Zoe, well, Zoe can’t even say the o word without bursting into giggles.
Will everything go according to plan? Probably not. But at least the girls have each other every hilarious, heart-warming, cringe-inducing step of the way.
When I was a teenager, I never encountered a YA book that dealt with sex as openly as Cherry does. In fact, some of the ones I read might have included very subtle sexual references, but never actually gave a true look into what cis girls around those ages might be thinking, experiencing, or even feeling about this topic. Cherry does this without fears and with other important themes as backdrop, like graduation and what it means for high school friendships, relationships, moving on, forgiving, and, most importantly, finding themselves.
We have four main characters— Alex, Layla, Zoe, and Emma— each with a very distinct personality. I would be lying if I say I didn’t have a favorite. Alex was such a force in this book, not only as a character itself, but as to what she represents, that I was drawn to her and her story. She was known for having kissed many boys and was slut-shamed for it and even for the way she looked, and though the struggled throughout the book with this and other issues, she was always very strong and centered. That’s not to say that the other girls weren’t as interesting or relatable. Emma explored her sexuality without guilt, Zoe fought with coming out of her comfort zone, and the ever-planning Layla had to deal with the unexpected feelings and events life threw at her.
I appreciated the openness with which the girls’ romantic and sexual experiences were told along with their characters’ development. However, I still had some issues with this book.
The main problem for me came from the premise itself. These four girls made this pact to have sex before college and I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was rooted on societal pressure. Still, the message ‘waiting till is right for you’ was present, but maybe not as clear as I would have liked it to be. It was sad that asexuality or simply not wanting to have sex at that moment of their lives was not discussed or even acknowledged. I do get that the book was trying to be sex positive (and it was), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that having sex is an obligatory rite of passage into adulthood.
As far as the narrative is concerned, I rolled my eyes at how, from the moment all characters were introduced, I knew what pairings were going to work out together and which weren’t. Not only that, but each girl had two options and maybe some readers won’t notice it, but they were so evident to me that I became annoyed. This took realism and excitement out of the story. It didn’t help that I didn’t particularly like any of the secondary characters; they were all pretty much a blur and I actually disliked half of them.
In the end, Cherry lacks in some areas, but I still consider it a good step towards sex positive young adult literature with fun main characters and a sweet friendship.