Reviews and the Discussion Thereof

Check out this great new review of Rampant, from the independent bookstore Russo’s Books in Bakersfield, CA:

Like most red-blooded girls, I’ve always like horses, and unicorns are an extension of that. Being a mythology buff, I’d bump into unicorns in my readings a lot. And I have to say, that’s where this book really hooked me.

The unicorns portrayed in the book aren’t the sparkly white horses with perfect spiral horns that are the boiled-down and sweetened unicorns popular today. They are based on the historical record of unicorns from around the world. No two unicorns from any region were alike, and that is reflected in this story. These guys are vicious! And yet, somehow, someย of them are still quite adorable (like that little stinker Bonegrinder!)

The pacing is excellent, the excitement level is on the ceiling through most of the book, and the characters are completely developed and become like actual, real-life friends. I love Astrid and her cousin, and her mother drives me nuts! Even more than my own mother does! This novel is completely original and different from anything else I’ve read (and I’m ALWAYS reading) and I can’t wait until she writes more– this NEEDS to be a series!

The bookseller goes on to express concern that it’s more a book for older teens, “[especially] in our conservative town of Bakersfield,” but says (bolding original to the text):

Otherwise, this book is so much fun, so different from anything else out there,ย and so well done, I’d be pushing it into everybody’s hands as a must-read.

Nice, huh? I know there’s been a lot of talk lately about responding to reviews and how it’s always A Bad Idea, but I think the downside of that is that authors might feel afraid of participating in discussions they meant the book to engender in the first place.

Rampant, being a book about virgins with superpowers tied to their virginity, deals with the issues of sexuality, feminism, the commodification of virginity, and how religion, culture, and tradition intersect with modern society and the pressures on a teenaged girl. It has a strong abstinence message. It also has what I’m glad to see this reviewer call “well-written, tasteful, and accurately realistic” discussions by the characters in the book regarding the topics above. I’m proud that I’ve written a book where the female characters are making informed decisions about their choice to remain abstinent. They do it for different reasons, too: some have religious or cultural beliefs that form the basis of their choice. Others want to keep hunting unicorns, an activity incompatible with being sexually active. Some just aren’t ready, or just aren’t interested. All are valid, and it was important for me to show that. As an abstinent teen myself, I was often surprised and put off by the assumption that “only Christians” or “only prudes” or “only insert-descriptor-here” were saving themselves, and if I didn’t have a darn good reason not to, then I should.

For the record, “I don’t want to,” is one of the best reasons in the world. You don’t have to justify it to anyone. Not your friends, not your boyfriend, not your prom date, not that mean girl who put a “V” in Sharpie marker on the door of your locker that everyone could mysteriously translate and make fun of you for. Being a virgin is not an epithet.

I put a discussion of virginity and abstinence in the book because it was something I talked about when I was a teenager, and it was something I was interested in and would have liked to read more books about. Kind of like how I wanted to read more books about women warriors, and ancient Rome, and myths and legends, and really close friends, and kissing boys, and Renaissance art, and all the other stuff I put into Rampant.

Oh, and just in case the bookseller at Russo’s sees this… good news: it is a series! I’m writing the second one now, and it’ll be out in Fall of 2010. We haven’t figured out the title yet, but we have a bunch of finalists.

Posted in feminism, story, unicorns, writing life, YA

14 Responses to Reviews and the Discussion Thereof

  1. Shveta says:

    Excellent, excellent post, Diana. Yes, this “why aren’t you having sex?” thing just boggles my mind. That’s the most intimate physical act there is, yet we can’t be free to decide when and if we want to? *shakes head*

    I can’t wait for your book. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Serenity says:

    Great post! Now I want to read the book even more.

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  4. Oh, now I want to read this book even MORE.

    I have a particular soft spot for male virgins — not meaning some hapless teen boy who would love to “prove his manhood” with some willing girl but has yet to muster the courage to even ask one out, nor some pathetic slovenly bachelor who still lives in his mother’s basement and has no social life, but male characters who actually (gasp!) happen to be passionately interested in something OTHER than sex, and don’t feel themselves to be incomplete or diminished on account of not having become sexually active yet. The idea that being a virgin after a certain (often appallingly young) age makes a man less of a man somehow just boggles me.

  5. PurpleRanger says:

    Of course, there is also the flipside. You could have a girl who doesn’t want to be a unicorn hunter, who just wants to be a normal girl — think Buffy when she is first told that she is a Slayer. That girl might be looking for the quick way out of the whole thing.

  6. Diana says:

    RJ, I know what you mean, though, in my book, hunters are specifically female. (It’s an Artemis thing.)

    PR, you should read the book and see. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Pam says:

    I think because “rampant” is an adjective the titles of the books in the series should be two-syllable adjectives (like “Fiery”). I don’t think this is overdone (yes, it’s been done), but it would be cool.

  8. Liann says:

    As a teen, I was always astounded when sex ed instructors came and delivered a sermon on every choice there is out there except for abstinence. I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book that makes a statement about abstinence being a wise, reasonable, and perfectly respectable choice, so I’ll definitely look forward to reading this. Too many YA books these days have the “you’re going to do it anyway, why not do it now?” attitude towards sex, which I find deprecating and demeaning. As if sex were the be-all, end-all of a teenager’s existence!

    I will keep my eye out for when my bookstore stocks Rampant ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Laura says:

    Got to admit – I’ve been a little bit skeptical about reading a book on killer unicorns. But a book about sexuality and abstinence and power associated with female virginity? I’m totally there! Definitely adding Rampant to my TBR list.

  10. Diana says:

    Pam: There’s a lot of themes/similarities we’re considering. I really love the working title, but we’re worried it’s something that only resonates for the people who have read the book.

    Liann: That’s really interesting (re: sex ed classes) and I’m sorry to hear it. Most of the stories I hear are about teens who are taught abstinence and NOTHING else, which I think is probably even more damaging, because then they really aren’t prepared for some of the complexities that come with sexual activity. I had comprehensive sex education in high school. We learned all the dangers, all the preventative measures, and also about abstinence.

    Laura: Glad to hear it! It’s been interesting to see how polarizing the topic has become. Some people are all over the book just because it has killer unicorns in it, and some people think the topic is just too silly to even consider. I’m of the opinion that speculative and fantasy fiction can be a great way to tackle some real life issues — not just the social ones, but also extinction, environmentalism, animal rights…

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  12. Congrats on the great review, Diana. May it be one of many.

  13. Congratulations on the awesome review. I can’t wait to read the book.

  14. PurpleRanger says:

    Based on what I’ve read so far, if a unicorn hunter becomes sexually active, she loses her superpowers, so a hunter who is . . . no longer qualified would be rather apparent. But going back to my example above, what about the girl who just wants to be a normal girl, but doesn’t want to go through the process of . . . disqualifying herself? Would she be able to fake not being a virgin so she would be left alone?

    Yeah, I already know what you’re going to say, Diana. I’ll have to read the book to find out. ๐Ÿ™‚