In Nina's world, which is frighteningly similar in some ways to our own, kids--not just girls, this is a two-way street, folks--are raised viewing sexIn Nina's world, which is frighteningly similar in some ways to our own, kids--not just girls, this is a two-way street, folks--are raised viewing sex as, well, the closest word to it that I think of, and I know it falls short of what Karr was trying to say, is a goal or rite of passage or recreation. This was best displayed in the attitude of Nina's best friend, Sandy, who blindly followed all of the Media's hype about turning sixteen by her dress, which was skimpy at best, her behavior, which degraded her value as a human being immeasurably, and her language, which was so sex-driven1 I felt bad for Nina having to feign interest. But despite all this, Sandy was a nice girl. Under all the layers of makeup and the too-few layers of sexteen2 clothing, she was a sweet girl who loved visiting the cows at the zoo, hanging out with her friends, and dreaming about the future. You never would've known any of this, however, by mere observation. The face that she put forth to the world was one of over-sexualized abandon ready and willing for anything with anyone. And that's exactly how the Governing Council wanted her, and all teenage girls, to be. By insidiously enforcing this mold on the youth of their society through clever propaganda and extreme marketing, they ensured that women were seen as second class at best, though more often than not they were completely objectionalized, abused, and disregarded. In this way, the Governing Council ensured that no one had the sense to look beyond what was right in front of their face, that being the latest trend or the hottest whoever, to see that there was indeed something wrong with the way their society functioned and that they desperately needed to change it. Now about that two-way street I mentioned earlier: Women were completely objectionalized by the society at large and this was brought to the story in the person of the scariest, most despicable, revolting, and realistic villain ever, along with a cast of brutal yet equally realistic secondary characters who were present mainly to drive the plot or illustrate some aspect of the belief system that Nina's harsh world (mal)functioned under. There were some truly frightening men in this story, but Karr didn't completely write off the whole gender, which would have been a shame. She included a cast of admirable and even chivalrous male characters, such as Nina grandfather and best friends. And this story, when looked at from another perspective, is not just about the negative effect that sexual degradation has on the over all treatment of women, it's also about the backlash that men experience in the same situation. They weren't as obviously opressed as women, but the men of this society--which, allow me to reiterate, was a lot like our own in many ways--were encouraged to act on their most base instincts. They were encouraged to act like animals and were raised viewing women as something to be conquered3 and owned. It was one of the saddest things, I think, that the men had lost their spine, their desire to treat women with respect, and thus to treat themselves with respect. Okay. I'm going to cut myself off before I continue to ramble, and say that XVI gets 5 stars. And how could I give it less when it held such an important underlying message, that being the importance of chastity in the battle to protect and uphold human dignity. When we sell ourselves short by allowing ourselves to become sexual object's, or by treating others in that manner, we damage our dignity. And I'm not talking about pride, as in "I have my dignity!", I'm talking about our God-given dignity. The thing that sets us apart from animals....more
I needed to read something light and charming and hopeful and delightful, yet not empty because I can't abide empty books, and Second Kiss delivered iI needed to read something light and charming and hopeful and delightful, yet not empty because I can't abide empty books, and Second Kiss delivered in spades1. Gemma and Jess are one of those duos that dumbfounds me; they've known each other since they were knee high to a grasshopper, have lived across the street from each other since they were born, even, and have walked to school every day since Jess's mom offered him as an escort for Gemma on her first day kindergarten2. I'm a military brat since birth, so every time I come across someone like this, my eyes kind of bug out. It seems unnatural to me to be in one place that long, let alone to know someone you're not directly related to for so long, but I so enjoy reading about it. Y'all might find this sort of thing to be mundane, but it's incredibly exotic to my mind. I loved the relationship between Gemma and Jess. It's the sort of relationship that you either have and are eternally grateful for, or, if you don't, wish you had or spend your whole life looking for. The story was very character driven. There were some big issues that Gemma and Jess had to deal with as they grew up but it always came back to how they relied on each other to get through those rough patches. Up to a point, that is. Eventually they must learn to stand on their own, and it's a hard lesson to learn for two people who have spent their whole lives sharing each other's burdens. Second Kiss wasn't just an endearing say-awww-at-the-end-of-every-chapter3 story, though. It also had a lot of humor. Gemma's life is ripe with embarrassing stories that she shares with Jess. He gives her a sense of balance, and, while he may not always make her feel better about her lot, he at least gives her perspective. He also gives her the Jess Smile4. Who wouldn't feel better about having sat by the dumpster all day after being on the receiving end of that? And, no, the story wasn't all smiles and adorableness; Jess, as the synopsis let on about, is dealing with very serious issues that lead him to rely more heavily on Gemma for consolation and strength. Gemma, who is incredibly naive and in some ways childish, has to grow up as she learns to help her friend deal and as she, too, learns to deal with her own drama. She was a bit dramatic at times, but I never found it to be annoying because that's just who she was. My only issue was that Jess sometimes seemed like he had always been 16-17 and Gemma had to grow into him. I suppose it was because he had to grow up a lot faster than Gem5, due in no small part to his home life, but it was due to his God-given nature6. Another thing I loved about this book was Gemma's family. Her parents were very realistic and loving and, most importantly of all, present. Her family was there through all the drama and she talked with her mom and dad about her life. They weren't just cardboard standee type characters,either, they were just as real as Gemma in their troubles and reactions and failures and triumphs. I loved them. Anywhoodle. I give Second Kiss... ...4 1/2 stars. I can't even explain what it is that I love so much about this book. It was endearing, and sweet, and hopeful, and real, and so full of adorable and love that you simply must read it. Seriously. Second Kiss is my new favorite love story, and Gem and Jess are one of my favorite duos.
i am zombie giRRRl & i recommend this book
footnotes___________________________________________ 1 Fear not, Reader, I read this the week after St. Valtentine's Day. The Lenten Reading Challenge lives on! 2 Jess is one year older than Gemma, though lightyears more mature. I loved the contrast of Gemma's dramatic innocent naivete with Jess' wise and stalwart sweetness. 3 Which, BTW, I did. At the end of almost every chapter, I just closed the book for a moment and basked in the charm of this story. 4 The Jess Smile has great power. It could bring about world peace. On the flip side, it could also start wars, if mis-fired... 5 Jess was the only person allowed to call her Gem. 6 He was just an old soul with a very mature outlook on love and life. Oh! I just realized what I like about him so much: Jess was a gentleman, pure and simple. But I digress. ...more