f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Moral Books Day 3 – Virgin or Whore? – Purity in <i>The V Club</i>

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Moral Books Day 3 – Virgin or Whore? – Purity in The V Club

Honestly, you all have no idea what I go through for you. The debates I have. The people I annoy. The questions I ask. And now the books I read.

You see, I’m the father of two daughters and the last thing in the world I want to be reading right now is a book starring four high school girls that’s all about, well, the various levels of teenage groping. But I pushed through, because that’s the kind of guy I am…and because it was actually the book of our in-house youth editor and I needed to get it back to her.

Yes, The V Club is a “kids” book. I read lots of them throughout the year because A) they’re quick, B) I enjoy chatting with the youth editors, C) they’re often quite engaging, and D) that’s our future coming. The V Club by Kate Brian is listed as being for ages 14 and up, though you know it’s being read by younger audience. One quick look and you realize much has changed in youth publishing. The line between chick lit and teen lit is almost invisible. Only the age of the protagonist marks the distinction. The covers are slick. The stories are aggressive and edgy. Whether we want it or not, there’s a level of sophistication to older teen books than we’ve ever seen before. And The V Club is right on top of that trend.

Mini-plot Recap: The town’s richest widow dies and leaves huge annual scholarship for a student who meets specific criteria including academic excellence, service, extracurricular activities, AND personal purity. Four senior friends are all aflutter at the news—but what is personal purity? To stake their claim they help form the V Club—for students pledging abstinence. Will they all be members by the time the scholarship is awarded though?

The characters run the gamut. You have the wallflower who’s never been kissed. The girl with the steady boyfriend who is trying to make up her mind. The girl who made a mistake in her past and regrets. And the girl who certainly plays the flirt but hasn’t found the “right” guy yet.

I’ve always found the inner-workings of groups of girls to be mostly headache-inducing and the personal drama and “hip” dialogue in this book do little to stop that trend. None of this comes off as terribly realistic but I think it’s core readers would pretty much eat it up with a spoon.

And at the heart of the book beats a pretty interesting question—especially in today’s public schools. What is purity? Does it have a place in one’s life, especially outside of any religious context? What are we to do with this whole sex thing anyway?

I’m not sure most Christian parents would be thrilled with Kate Brian’s “answers” as presented in the book. But from an arguing perspective I’ll say that she comes down further to the conservative side than I expected hammering pretty hard on being “sluttish,” offering a sex scene that’s not fairy tale perfect, and talking about intentional chastity as though it’s something sorta noble rather than freakish. Overall, it’s stil a rather surface-level treatment of the topic—we never do learn the girls’ private definitions of purity—but that’s to be expected in the genre.

Sex is still the forbidden fruit in Christian publishing and I’m talking about adult books here not just teen titles. It’s the thing we’ve stayed most Puritanical about. Out-of-wedlock sex usually just destroys lives in these books…and I don’t know if that’s the case in the real world. It’s certainly a tough issue and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly but right now I think we’re approaching it with too broad of strokes.