Good looking. Fine. Cute. Hunky. Sexy. Hot. The word sexy can best be defined as being sexually suggestive, stimulating, or appealing. However equivocal the word, since it can be used to describe how one feels and how one is perceived, that is the main focal point of the Young Adult novel by Joyce Carol Oates. The novel begins with an intriguing first line which sucked me in immediately. “Soon as he turned sixteen, put on weight and began to get attention for his looks, things began to turn weird.” (Sexy, p. 1) That first chapter then continues on with descriptions of how good-looking, shy and sexy Darren Flynn is. Of course these are the opinions of the way he is perceived, spoken by the narrator. Narrated in the third person with peppered dialogue here and there, we get to the crux of sexy and other issues that are floating around in Darren’s head and the other character’s too.
Darren Flynn is tallish light-haired and built like a swimmer/diver – broad shoulders, slim waist. We are introduced to the two most import parts of his world, which are his home and school life. These are the two places that an adolescent has to fit. It seems that fitting in at home can prove to be just as difficult as fitting in at school. Once these worlds are constructed for us along with the important characters the story takes off into directions you won’t believe. Oates took the word sexy and exploited it to the max and that’s what I admired about the writing and the plot. Sexy is not a typical Young Adult novel. It has typical physical characteristics of a Young Adult novel because the chapters are fairly short, the typography is large, and the pages have wide margins. However, Sexy has a literary style of writing and isn’t just a plot with typical characters that you’ve seen before and the plot is not predictable. Some of the main themes of Sexy are coming of age, budding sexuality, friendship and trust, loyalty and its importance, how rumours get spread and can poison the innocent. It’s worth the read and the 4 stars I gave it on Goodreads.
Joyce Carol Oates is known for having written over 40 novels, plays, short stories, poetry, novellas, and non-fiction work. Sexy is her fourth Young Adult novel published in 2005. Some school libraries have attempted to ban Sexy because of its mature themes and strong language, although I don’t think it’s any worse than what adolescents hear and see daily on television or the internet. It’s for that reason I’d love to hear what adolescents have to say about it. Some of her other Young Adult novels are Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (2002), Small Avalanches and Other Stories (2003), After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away (2006), Two or Three Things I forgot to Tell You (2012) and Freaky Green Eyes, which was critically acclaimed while being designated as one of the best children’s books of 2003. If you’ve read Sexy please comment below and tell me what you thought of it, especially if you’re an adolescent.