One of the topics I explore in Caught Between Two Curses—YA with romance, baseball and magical elements–is teenage sex: the pressure to do it, the desire to do it, and the complication it lends to relationships.
Chapter one opens with my main character, 17-year-old Julie, the summer before her senior year, at home alone with her boyfriend, Gus–they’ve been going out for 2 1/2 years. He is ready to have sex. She is not. He says, “Let’s do it. Now’s our chance.” She says, “I’m not ready.” He says, “I have a condom.” She says it doesn’t matter, and then she gets mad. She says she’s told him she’s not ready, and he should accept that. He says that he can’t and leaves. A few days later they break up. Gus starts going out with another girl who is known for having sex. However, Gus soon realizes that it’s not as easy to say good-bye to Julie as he hoped it would be. It turns out sex is not the all-encompassing relationship he wants to have. And so Julie and Gus go back and forth, back and forth in this novel.
One reader found this hard to accept. She said she didn’t understand how Julie could be so stupid and give Gus a second chance. This critique actually makes me happy because it shows that there are a lot of strong, smart girls out there who aren’t willing to do anything to keep a guy, although we are bombarded with stories like this in the news and social media every day. So, why did I write Julie like this? Why did I allow her to give Gus a second chance? (BTW, all of this happens in about the first part of the novel–so there are really no spoilers here!)
In my experience as a teen and as an adult, a bond built on 2 1/2 years is often hard to just let go. It’s actually very realistic that people don’t just break up once–many times they break up, get back together, and break up again. What Gus is saying to Julie is, “I love you, but I want to have sex.” What Julie is saying is, “I love you, I’m attracted to you, but I’m not ready to have sex.” So, they have to decide if they can stay together with this HUGE difference between them. Also, and I feel this is very realistic, Julie often thinks about how Gus was at the beginning of the relationship, when he was a freshman/sophomore, before he grew tall and became the star of the basketball team, before sex became the only thing he thinks about. She longs for that Gus and sees glimpses of him sometimes.
I’m all for GIRL POWER. I think girls need to stand up for what they believe in. They need to make choices based on what is right for them and their bodies, not based on what is right for anyone else. Julie does this in the book, but she’s also human, flawed, and has a forgiving heart, so I guess to some people she may seem weak.
So, what do you think? Is it realistic for girls and guys to get back together again and again? Is the issue of sex always there? Does it break people up? When do you know you’re ready?
photo above by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes on www.flickr.com