Anatomy of a Boyfriend wants to be like Judy Blume’s Forever, but it just ends up being a kind of boring novel where the reader gets the sense that the author is only writing in order to describe a sexual relationship.
Dominique is a senior at a private school and has never met any boy she’s interested in, until she goes to a football game at her best friend Amy’s public school and meets Wes. As Wes and Amy run track together, Dominique ends up getting to know him better and they eventually start going out. Wes is fairly new to town, and is quite shy despite his good looks, so he is something of an enigma until he and Dominique become close. The story follows the couple from their meeting halfway through their senior year and most of their freshman year at college, and describes their relationship along the way. Although they think they’re going to be together forever, they decide to go to colleges far apart from one another, which is of course the main reason for growing apart.
The book isn’t badly written, it’s just that the story isn’t compelling. It’s told entirely from Dom’s point of view, and although she is an interesting person with a variety of interests, once she meets Wes, her whole life focuses on him. Even though she goes to school and lives day to day life, the only part of her life that is written about is her relationship - hoping she sees Wes, deciding how far to go with him, her relationships with other people that change due to her feelings about Wes, and so on.
I had trouble believing in the characters as real teenagers living in the real world, as the outside, modern world doesn’t seem to impact them. They speak in a strangely formal manner, using long vocabulary words. When they instant message or text, they write out all the words in long sentences and don’t use any abbreviations. Hardly any mention was made of peripheral characters, including other students at Dominique’s school, even though those are people that she’s known all her life and who would have some effect on her character. I found especially surprising that when Dom decides to go to Tulane and moves to New Orleans, she never mentions anything about Hurricane Katrina and the consequences it had on the city and school.
The novel gets its name from Dom’s interest in science and anatomy and her plans to go to medical school, as well as the fact that there is so much description of her sexual experiences with Wes as she explores his body and eventually her own. I got the feeling that the author intended the book to help YA readers become comfortable with their own sexuality, with such helpful "lessons" about how everyone is ready at different times, and that it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to, etc., but I really think that there are better non-fiction books out there that discuss these things.
I found Anatomy of a Boyfriend to be rather tedious, and I spend a lot of time reading young adult novels. I was unable to discern any hint that the author really believed in her characters as people; they were static and flat. Even if a reader was curious about sex, apart from the graphic descriptions of it in the story (such as when warm white goo runs down her hand after Dom gives her boyfriend a hand job), there’s nothing that really engages the emotions and suggests that the characters’ feelings have much to do with their decisions. There are plenty of better young adult novels out there, including Megan McCafferty’s (Dom’s character was reminiscent of Jessica Darling), that I would recommend over this one both for the story and the way it’s told. If you're interested, we've DIK reviews of the first two books in her series
-- Jessica Langlois
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