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The Abstinence Teacher

3.24  ·  Rating Details ·  14,594 Ratings  ·  2,211 Reviews
Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise kids. It's got the proverbial good schools, solid values and a healthy real estate market. It's the kind of place where parents are involved in their children's lives, where no opportunity for enrichment goes unexplored.

Ruth Ramsey is the human sexuality teacher at the local high school. She believes that "pleasure is good, s
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Random House Canada (first published January 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 25, 2009 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009

Tommy, Tommy, Tommy! How did such a promising young literary stud like yourself turn out to be such an emasculated whore? When did things start to go so horribly, horribly wrong?

Let me be clear. When I picked you up at the airport in San Francisco, it was with entirely clear-eyed, realistic expectations. Let's face it. I wasn't looking for the literary love of my life. Just a two-plane romance - enough to while away the time it takes to get from SFO to M
Jason Pettus
(My entire review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

As I've mentioned here a couple of times before, I've recently become a fairly big fan of movie-friendly author Tom Perrotta; for example, I found his breakthrough 2006 novel Little Children to be a surprisingly complex and subtle look at just what a horrific place the suburbs can be to some people, a stifling environm
Aug 08, 2016 Snotchocheez rated it liked it
2.5 Stars

The Abstinence Teacher is a pretty solid near-three-star read from Tom Perrotta, though I thought he really could've gone a lot farther with his observations on the rift between the religious right and the secular left. It does, though, serve as an ideal warm-up to his (in my opinion) much more fully realized The Leftovers.

Though this 2007 release seems slightly dated, Perrotta's core societal perceptions are just as salient today as they were ten years ago. His protagonist Ruth Ramsey
Nov 13, 2007 David rated it did not like it
My dad sent me this book, and also the DVD of "Little Children", which is based on his novel of the same name. Here's what I wrote him after reading it:

I went to the theater but it was packed, so I opted out, went to a coffee shop and read Perrotta's book, which I finished this morning. Really bad. If you haven't read it yet, I wouldn't bother. There was something that bothered me about Little Children that I couldn't put my finger on until now. Perrotta is trying to be the moralist of suburbia,
Sep 23, 2016 Fabian rated it liked it
Perrotta creates self-fulfilling demimondes in intricate detail. But it's all sound and fury. This one's about what occurs when the Religious Right clashes with more modern and shall we say promiscuous tastes. His best is the hilarious "Joe College." His worst: "The Leftovers." And this one fits snugly in between.
Apr 27, 2011 Ceilidh rated it it was ok
The abstinence movement and the Christian right are two of my favourite topics in relation to American politics, one of my strange hobbies. They both fascinate and horrify me in equal measure and I’m always on the lookout for books, fiction and non-fiction, related to them to fuel my interest. I’ve only read one Tom Perrotta novel before, “Little Children”, which I enjoyed immensely and found to be a well orchestrated satire on suburban life and its less than picture perfect truth, so I entered ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Michael rated it liked it
I really enjoy Tom Perrotta's writing style, and this book is no exception. His prose is smooth and easy, the kind of writing that pulls you into the story and makes you forget you're reading a book. I would compare reading Perrotta to watching an engaging movie. He's just an excellent storyteller.

That said, I have some issues with his latest, The Abstinence Teacher. The book is about a woman named Ruth, a sex ed teacher in Suburbville, USA, who sparks a controversy by responding to a question b
Morgue Anne
Feb 03, 2009 Morgue Anne rated it it was amazing
When it comes to my sex life, there’s a lot my parents don’t need to know. They don’t need to know that I was deathly afraid of sex until I was almost 18 – not because of those “abstinence only” education documentaries that made sex seem like a death warrant – but because it was me giving something of myself to someone, letting them have a power over me that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. They don’t need to know who I lost my virginity to, or what my current boyfriend and I do behind closed ...more
Abigail Hillinger
Nov 06, 2007 Abigail Hillinger rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction

I'm rather Tom Perrotta-obsessed. I've been known to babble on about him...over and over and over again.

I was really excited for this book to come out. I loved the concept of Ruth, a Human Sexuality teacher, being called into question for something innocent, a casual remark, and how the hyper-Christian population attacked her like she had horns and had the middle name Lucifer. And the connection between Tim, her daughter's born-again soccer coach, and Ruth are great. The scene where Ruth re
Jan 14, 2008 Maggie rated it it was ok
Perrotta's latest installment uses public school health teachers and suburban soccer moms and dads to examine the war between liberals and evangelicals. For over ten years Ruth Ramsay let her motto of "Pleasure is good, shame is bad, and knowledge is power" guide her teaching of human sexuality; in her classroom no subject was forbidden, but the envelope is eventually pushed too far when, in response to a student's vocal disgust over oral sex, she replies, "some people enjoy it." A student ...more
Stuart Nachbar
Aug 21, 2008 Stuart Nachbar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Abstinence Teacher Gets an A in My Grade Book

Tom Perrotta and I have two things in common: New Jersey roots and novels about sex education; his latest work, The Abstinence Teacher is the only other novel, besides my own, The Sex Ed Chronicles, that I have read which covers a subject that is still considered taboo in some social circles.

The Abstinence Teacher has two main characters: Ruth Ramsey, a divorcee’ and high school sex educator who makes one inappropriate comment too many, drawing th
Derek Emerson
Jan 10, 2010 Derek Emerson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-books-read
This week I read the "New York Times Bestseller," The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta. While not liking the book is one thing, hating it is another. I hated this book! I'm actually angry about it and it has been nearly a week since I pushed myself through it in two days. Two days is plenty of time since it would appear it took that long to write (although Perrotta claims two years). What surprises me is my anger. I think, through no fault of his own, it's because this IS a New York Times ...more
Jun 05, 2009 Imogen rated it it was ok
I remembered Jessa from Bookslut going off about this book for a long time, so I was excited to read it, but goodreads, I can't lie to you: it reminds me of the capital letter Literary Fiction I used to write when I was nineteen, and I am NOT proud of that stuff. "I'm going to tell the story from The Enemy's point of view," I'd think, "to show that they are people too." But, I mean, duh. One, there is no enemy, and two, duh! Obviously evangelical Christians are real people. So... I hated the ...more
Feb 22, 2009 CD rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
This book was a recommendation for our book club and I have to say it is one of the only books for that group that I think is poorly written. What I was told I would be reading is a funny book about a clash between the health teacher at a school and the local fundamentalist Christian group. I was expecting a collision of ideas, morality, education, parents v. teachers, community standards. What I got was something else completely.

It started off with the health teacher and it seemed to be progre
Aug 18, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I love Tom Perrotta, and this book was no exception. He writes in such a way that he makes it look easy, when it is anything but. And I love how much depth he finds in characters that other writers might see as simply stereotypes.
Jul 18, 2008 Kit rated it it was ok
Shelves: peanut-m-ms
I'm about halfway through this, and am not loving it. Maybe the ending will pull thigns together (and pull this off).

Where I am now: characters are stock characters, so am assuming the point is not character or character development, but some larger point about our culture and its issues about the roles of sexuality and religion.

A parent is shocked/distressed that their child's health ed (sex ed) teacher says that some people like oral sex (and, presumably, not so happy that the teachers flips
Jul 05, 2008 Matt rated it liked it
After LITTLE CHILDREN, this book seems totally light-weight. Definitely not a bad book, but the characters were painted a little too broadly for my tastes (Ruth's gay best friends, for example, or the stereotypical "ms. perfect" abstinence pusher).

Perrotta tries his best to present both sides of the religious debate as equally valid, but his heart really isn't in it (not that I blame him). While none of the religious characters come off as complete left-wing stereotypes, none of them come off lo
May 11, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Laura, Lynne, Toni
Shelves: general-fiction
The story unfolds...It sounds like such a cliche but that truly is the best way to describe this absorbing read. Perrota does an excellent job of reeling the reader in, slowly disclosing background information and details about the main characters, all the while allowing the story to be told. Perrota never hints at his own personal position on the controversial issues raised by this novel (i.e. educating high school students about abstinence, public prayer, Christianity.) Both of the main ...more
Oct 25, 2007 Melissa rated it liked it
I don't know what it is about his books, they start off so well & then they just fall flat at the end.
May 25, 2008 Lorraine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Christians in book clubs
Recommended to Lorraine by: AnnaVR
A friend suggested I read this book and tell her what I thought, because "it's different" and it was. It warrants discussion, because I don't think I can fully appreciate all of it on my own (yet I didn't like it enough to want to reread it). 3 stars because I'm torn between liking it and not liking it.

I thought the book would be more focussed on the abstinence teacher's struggles with her sex ed curriculum, but that wasn't really the focus of the book at all. It starts the book off, and produce
Jun 15, 2012 Meredith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I only finished this book because I had already listened to 4.5 of the 9 discs when its potential finally crashed and burned.

This novel should be called The Convert or The Convert Awaiting His Chance to Backslide rather than The Abstinence Teacher since the title The Abstinence Teacher misleadingly suggests that the implementation of an "abstinence only" sex education program, its effect on the students, and the battle about the programs in community would be the subject.

In interviews the auth
Sep 27, 2011 Brooke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-books
Sorry this post took so long! I was driving cross country with the hubs!!

I finished The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta a couple of weeks ago, so this review is far from fresh. The basic premise involves a high school sex ed teacher, Ruth, who innocently explains to a student that oral sex can be pleasurable and safe. The Christian conservatives in the town set out on a witch hunt to silence Ruth and implement abstinence only education in the school system. A few weeks later Ruth meets Tim, o
Jul 26, 2008 Tony rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2009 Cher rated it liked it
The obvious confrontation in this story is between the Christian's perception of the "godlessness" and the non-Christians who perceive the Christians as zealots who push their beliefs down other's throats. However, religion aside, the bigger point seems to be an overall lack of tolerance for diversity. Aren't we all tempted to justify our own convictions and values? And in doing so, aren't we somewhat blinded to the fact that our adversaries are just doing the same?

Each main character can be acc
Angel Strandjev
Aug 04, 2014 Angel Strandjev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book more of curiosity and certainly I never thought it would be a page-turner. The story revolves around two characters - Ruth Ramsey, an agnostic sex education teacher in a not so conservative northeast US town and Tim Mason, a former rock bassist with a history of drug and alcohol abuse who has recently found Jesus and the way their paths cross. It has all the ingredients of a good book: original story; dynamic, multi-layered characters, controversial subject and a lot of food ...more
Jul 07, 2009 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I'm halfway through and the verdict so far: great idea. Too bad it's so lamely executed.

The main characters are in conflict over their deeply held beliefs... that should make for compelling reading, right? But it just isn't doing it for me. Both the sex ed teacher and the born-again soccer coach are equally righteous and boring.

UPDATE: Also, one of my pet peeves: way too many pop culture references. The Grateful Dead mentions are fine; they work because the character associates the music with h
Sep 04, 2016 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I ended up feeling that almost none of the things that were important to resolve got resolved and almost everything that wasn't important to resolve got resolved. I wasn't satisfied at all and don't feel it completely works as a novel, except as an arbitrarily ended one. The writing was solid other that the plot line, but I just can't get behind what I feel was stopping a third of the way through. Maybe the author just got bored and wandered off.
May 22, 2016 Meggyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
ZERO stars, abandoned halfway. As a sex-positive feminist and musician in a Christian rock band, I thought the abstinence argument would be an interesting minor conflict in the middle of a fun, silly rom-com. Instead, this book was disgustingly problematic: filled with fat shaming, Islamophobia, women as objects, and sexualization of prepubescent girls by adult men. 200 pages in, my flight finally landed, and this book was no longer my only alternative to mile-high boredom. Book, meet dumpster.
Lauren Keller
Aug 05, 2015 Lauren Keller rated it it was ok
Shelves: moms-book-club
Although it will provide some good discussion at book club because of the subject matter, the book itself felt like a bit of a waste of time to me. I couldn't find a character I liked, and there was no real resolution. I'm wondering what the author was trying to say here. I kept thinking that his point of view would become clear, but even though I can guess at what his "stance" is, I am left wondering, what was the point?
Nov 10, 2011 Todd rated it really liked it
After throughly enjoying the novel Little Children (as well as the movie), I decided to try Tom Perrotta’s follow-up novel, The Abstinence Teacher. I’ve been continually impressed by how Perrotta frames the human experience through everyday life, and it’s interesting how much we can learn from one another when we look past the titles and labels that we all seem too eager to proudly display or affix to others. Perrotta is very adept at pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable and acceptable ...more
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Tom Perrotta (born August 13, 1961) is an American novelist and screenwriter best known for his novels Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), both of which were made into critically acclaimed, Golden Globe-nominated films. Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay for the 2006 film version of Little Children with Todd Field, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted ...more
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