I don’t think that I’ve ever called a book “true, important, and sexy” all in the same sentence before this one. EASY by Tammara Webber was that good and that awesome. I sometimes get shy about talking about books I read (I talked about Fifty Shades of Gray with my parents the other day. You want to talk about awkward? That was awkward). But I read something about “don’t be embarrassed by what you read” (I seriously can’t believe I can’t find this article now. If you have it, can you share it in the comments?).
But before we go further, I’m putting a trigger warning on everything I’m saying about this book. The book deals with sexual assault, the aftermath of sexual assault/attempted rape, alludes to attempted suicide, and talks about some pretty gory pasts for one of the characters.
So I should start by saying that last night, I very badly wanted a happy ending story. I wanted to read a story where the girl and guy get their happily ever after story. I wanted something sexy but if I read more more Fifty Shades of Gray like book, I’m going to throw an entire bookstore/industry out the window. I want sexy, without it being erotica. If I wanted to read smut, I’d get on the internet. A book should be able to tell an incredible story with strong, well rounded characters, and STILL BE SEXY. I really struggle with this in the Romance genre. Not saying there isn’t some great romance out there…I’m sure there is, and every reader has something different in mind, but I wanted: a plot that had nothing to do with the two characters getting together, really beautiful characters, a lot of chemistry between the characters, and a fairytale ending.
Also keep in mind that over a year ago, before EASY was released, I must have read about it on some blog because I remember the whole tutor vs hot student in her class confusion and thinking “That sounds fun.” Somehow, my memory didn’t remember at ALL that the plot deals with the main character, Jacqueline, surviving an attempted rape and breaking up with her boyfriend of three years.
So I started this book. I am A) really glad i picked it up now. It was exactly the read I wanted. B) Really sad I didn’t read this a year ago.
EASY is about Jacqueline who followed her high school boyfriend to college, and then he dumped her because, and I shit you not, he wanted to get the whole “sleeping around” thing out of his system before he became a big shot politician. I hope he knows that the go way back to college to find out if presidential candidates were womanizers now. So he’s screwed either way. (Side note: this secondary character isn’t static. He’s dynamic and I grew fond of him, despite the fact that he’s a bit of a douchebag.)
Jacqueline’s roommate, Erin (another secondary character whose book I’d read), decides that J needs to get out there and rebound to get over Kennedy. Jacqueline’s flirting with her econ tutor Landon via email and making eyes with Lucas, a hot student in her econ class in the classroom and at Starbucks and oh, he keeps showing up everywhere (but in a less stalkery way than Edward and Bella of Twilight, thank god). Jacqueline’s a little passive when it comes to Lucas–who can blame her? The story opens with her nearly getting raped by one of her ex boyfriend’s frat brothers right after she gets dumped–but Lucas is practically a poster child for guys looking to date girls who were victims of sexual assault (seriously. Guys. Read this. Lucas doesn’t treat her like she’s made of glass, but he makes it so very clear that she can say STOP at any point and he will stop and not resent her for it. And she uses that.).
But her attacker is still at large, being creepy, being difficult, and Jacqueline’s trying to sort out her attraction to Lucas and her flirtations with Landon via email, and trying not to fail Econ.
I’ve already told you that EASY fulfilled my desire for a story with sexy chemistry, a happy ending (but not THAT happy ending), and really great characters, so I’m not going to do further spoilers, but I do want to talk about why I called this book True, Important, and Sexy.
True: One in Four women on American college campuses has *reported* rape or attempted rape. REPORTED. REPORTED. THAT IS THE KEY WORD HERE. Do you know how many attempted rapes and rapes go UNREPORTED? TOO. MANY. And while colleges and universities are getting better about this (uh, in most cases. Other cases, not so much), the justice system is SLOW and like Jacqueline, women often have to walk by their attackers every day after the attack, sit in classes with them, see them in the campus center or getting mail, or walking to the bathroom in the same dorm hall. Girls who experience sexual assault on a college campus can re-experience their trauma again, and again, and again, because “innocent until proven guilty” and lots of issues with rape culture. Can I tell my audience, or whoever is reading this, that it is NOT *just* No means No? No means no. Stop means stop. Unless you’re in a committed sexual relationship complete with safe words, girls don’t struggle because they think it’s funny or they want to be sexier. They don’t say no because they actually mean yes. When a girl says no, she means it. When she says stop, she means it. And if she can’t say yes or no, then the default answer is no. A girl who is too drunk or unconscious to consent is not consenting. A lack of response does not mean that you have her permission. We need to move beyond No means No and into a world where Yes means Yes.
Important: Books that talk about girls who have survived sexual assault tend to be issue books. They center around that. And that’s not always a bad thing. I can see EASY being a lifetime for someone who identifies that strongly with Jacqueline. But EASY’s not really an issue book. While Erin (the roommate) and Jacqueline go to self defense classes and Lucas teaches Jacqueline to defend herself, even when he’s twice her ‘dark avenging angel’, the story is about Jacqueline and Lucas conquering their inner demons not through each other, or for each other, but in light of each other and for me, that was the true power of this story. I think it’s really important that we write, read, and publish stories in which a character experiences something that is all too common, but that we show that while it is a part of her experience and her story, it is not her story. Jacqueline being a survivor is not Jacqueline. Her survivorhood is a facet of her. It is not her entire story. That’s crucial. In this way, EASY reminded me of a New Adult version of SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson which is the story of a high school girl who is raped and becomes electively mute and a social outcast in the wake of that.
And from a New Adult standpoint? THESE are the stories that I think New Adult could be telling. Strong compelling stories, richly developed, wonderfully written, without explicit sex in it. This is not Fifty Shades of Gray. The moody tortured boy here has cause for his trauma but it doesn’t dominate him and he doesn’t turn into an abusive person as a result of it (opposite, actually) and become a widely sold bestseller. This is a story that is true to the twentysomething experience: pain, trauma, finding our feet again and stumbling upwards, learning to cope with a myriad of battling priorities in our lives (Jacqueline and Lucas don’t see each other every day and don’t ask to. They do not become consumed by their relationship even as fragile as they both are at points), and learning about what we want from our romantic partners.
Sexy: Lucas is sexy, not just in his looks, but in what he does. Hello, sexy male character who savors turning a girl on and getting her off. Hello, sexy male character who does not define himself by his anatomy. Hello, sexy male character who does not demand things from the sexy female character. Hello, hello, hello. Please, clone yourself and throw yourself into a hundred thousand other books.
My biggest complaints about EASY?
1. It ended
2. It’s shelved as ROMANCE. Tell me, world, how you decide these things? This book is not getting picked up by the people who *need* it because they’re not going to the Romance section of Barnes&Noble. They think what they *need* to read (that they will survive this; that they will be wanted again; that sex won’t always be connected to negative experiences) can’t be found in the Romance shelf. So that drove me CRAZY.
3. Lucas is not real. That’s terrible.
To sum up, this was a great book. It was exactly what I needed to read (and have needed for years) and I loved it. I’m sending it to my sister with instructions to pass it around her college campus after she’s done reading it. I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy!