Author: Leanne Lieberman
Publisher: Orca Book Publishing
Type of book: Asian male/white female relationship, interracial, Canada, anxiety, depression, Vagina Monologues, YA, High school, modern times, Judaism, Passover, family, friends, sex, desires, feminism, demonizing desire
Year it was published: 2017
Sixteen-year-old Sydney hates to talk (or even think) about sex. She's also fighting a secret battle against depression, and she's sure she'll never have a boyfriend. When her classmate Paul starts texting and sending her nature photos, she is caught off guard by his interest. Always uncomfortable with any talk about sex, Sydney is shocked when her extroverted sister, Abby, announces that she is going to put on The Vagina Monologues at school. Despite her discomfort, Sydney starts to reexamine her relationship with her body, and with Paul. But her depression worsens, and with the help of her friends, her family, a therapist and some medication, she grapples with what she calls the most dangerous thing about sex: female desire.
Main characters include Sydney, a teen suffering from depression and social anxiety who is Jewish and loves math. She is loyal to her friends and family and is trying to deal with depression, anxiety, having a new crush as well as her sister's mission to put The Vagina Monologues at their school. Paul is Sydney's love interest, a teen boy who is from Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese and loves taking nature photos and sending them to Sydney. He is sweet and tries his best to make Sydney comfortable. Abby is Sydney's sister, polar opposite of Sydney in that she is outgoing, stands up for her self and her rights and goes a bit too far in some areas. It is also hinted that Abby might possibly be a closeted lesbian, although it's not the primary focus of the book. Abby also strikes me as very confident and doesn't let anything get her down. Zayde is Sydney's grandfather who is also possibly suffering from depression who also happens to be a math whiz and often helps Sydney with market and stocks. He is also old fashioned when it comes to women and even threatens to stay away from a Passover party because it will be celebrated differently than what he is used to.
To be honest, because the book focused on a lot of issues, it's a bit difficult for me to narrow down the lesson that I learned from it. probably that we are not alone.
The story is in first person narrative from Sydney's point of view. While most of YA focuses on romance and love, this book focuses a lot more on friendship, family, and Sydney trying to cope with her anxiety and depression. Love, in other words, plays a small part in the story, and Sydney does remain true to herself even when she gets romance. I am a bit opposite of Sydney in the fact I'm not a scientist nor a mathematician, but am more of a creative personality, but still, it's uncanny how it seems as if she and I have quite a few things in common. I do wish that more would have been focused on Sydney's growth and how she changes. For those who are curious, depression is realistically written and handled and I speak as someone who used to know someone who had Sydney's depression. Social anxiety is a bit different for me, (watch the video from college humor to understand it. Hits really close to home, didn't help that at one point I showed the video to baby's father but he laughed...)
(From the book)
Leanne Lieberman is the author of four acclaimed YA novels, including Gravity (a Sydney Taylor Notable Book) and Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust. Her adult fiction has been published in Descant, Grain, THe New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review and other magazines. Leanne lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches elementary school (including sex ed).
What can I say? I honest to gods wish that the book existed when I was a teenager, and that I could have read it and felt normal during that tumultuous period. Instead the book is published in 2017, when I will be 32 years of age in October. Why I wish this book existed when I was a teenager was first of all a main character who is dealing with anxiety and depression and who also is Jewish and her boyfriend is Asian (my heart literally skipped a beat when I read that her love interest speaks Cantonese!) While I am unable to understand why Sydney hates being touched, I love the ideas that the book mentions and discusses; namely that people shouldn't feel shame for the way they are, and I also love how Sydney's depression and anxiety is handled; it doesn't go away by finding true love, but instead she has to find other means to leave it. Relationship between Sydney and Paul, at least to me, is also realistic and I liked that a lot. Again, I wish I had that book as a teenager.
This was given to me by the author
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)