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Doing It Hardcover – May 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Melvin Burgess, author of Smack, has written what is potentially the most controversial young adult novel ever. Doing It is an honest and funny book about three teenage British boys learning about themselves and life through their sexual experiences. But here's the catch: the story is told from the point of view of the hormone-sodden young males, naughty bits and all.

Gorgeous Dino thinks that equally gorgeous Allie should realize that they belong together and is puzzled and frustrated when their passionate lovemaking always ends with her refusing him. Jonathan fancies sensible, sexy Deborah but can't admit it to his friends, even after several steamy grope sessions, because she is…well…plump. And Ben is living every teenage boy's dream, an affair with a lusty teacher--but somehow it's getting to be too much of a good thing.

Nearly all YA novels about love and sexuality are told by and for girls, like Judy Blume's groundbreaking classic, Forever. The contrast here is striking--as Burgess said in an interview, "I wrote Doing It because I do believe that we have let young men down very badly in terms of the kinds of books written for them. This book is my go at trying to bring young male sexual culture into writing." The result is surprising but educational for female readers. Wisely, the publisher has kept the British slang terms for sexual acts and body parts, rather than using the American four-letter words, a factor that will make the book less of a hot potato for librarians and teachers, but not diminish the reading pleasure for the inevitable hordes of young male readers. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–Three teenaged boys enjoy talking about, thinking about, and joking about sex. Dino finally establishes a relationship with Jackie, the prettiest girl in school, who will allow all sorts of sexual liberties, but draws the line at intercourse. He finds another girl whom he mistakenly thinks he can use for sex while keeping his relationship with Jackie viable. In the meantime, he witnesses his mother passionately involved with a man who is not his father, and must deal with the results of his own treacherous behavior as he watches his parents' marriage fall apart. Ben finds himself steeped in a dilemma of a different sort. His 20-something drama teacher chooses him to be her secret sexual playmate, which he first enjoys but then desperately tries to escape. Jonathon's predicament involves his budding romance with Deborah, an overweight girl whom everyone likes as a friend, but not a girlfriend. He has to decide whether to follow his heart, despite taunting from his peers. Burgess's novel, which retains its original British terminology and sexual slang, is crude, irreverent, and explicit, yet honest and frequently funny. At first, the sexual elements are uncomfortably overwhelming, but Burgess gradually twists the story so that the characters' personal situations become prominent, with casual sex secondary. The seemingly callous male characters become more sympathetic as their personalities, feelings, and problems are unveiled. The female characters are not afforded the same sensitivity. Readers may be drawn in by the intense sexual tone, and find a well-developed story that will spark reflection on the meaning and strength of peer and romantic relationships.–Diane P. Tuccillo, City of Mesa Library, AZ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805075658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805075656
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,440,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I'm recommending this book for all high school and public library YA collections.
N. S.
Dino likes to think every girl at school would like to be with him, but the one girl he really wants is of course the one he can't get.
Most of the book is a bunch of adolescent boys talking about sex, not actually having it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Goldfarb on September 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book provides from a first person point of view the sexual awakenings of three high school boys. Dino is the popular one, who lusts after the equally popular Jackie, who spurns him for her much older boyfriend. When she finally relents and starts snogging him, she can't help but lead him to the point of doing it, and then disappoints him. Dino instead loses his virginity with the younger, but more experienced Zoe, who plays him like a violin before ultimately destroying him for two-timing Jackie. Ben is the quiet one that all the girls are interested in, but he never asks anyone out because he's secretly been seduced by Miss Young, his drama teacher, who provides him sex but cannot provide him the experience of a girl friend he really longs for. When he finally finds a way to his freedom, she disappears with no consequences, which seems unrealistic in this day and age (compare Thisbe Nissen's The Good People of New York, where the girl's affair with her teacher occurs about 20 years ago). Jonathan is the only one attracted to someone he actually likes as a person, but Deborah being overweight makes her the subject of teasing from his friends and he cannot overcome both the razzing and the odd sensation he has in his penis, which causes him impotence when it is time to go all the way. He finally gets this fixed by a kind woman doctor.

Surrounding all this is a social milieu that includes mobile phones but otherwise could be the era of the Knack with condoms.

I enjoyed Burgess's writing and accepted that I was reading a comic novel that was trying to be frank and sensational, but was also conventional and ultimately moral.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on June 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Last year many of us got to read the highly publicized and highly charged essay in The Guardian by British author Anne Fine about the new Melvin Burgess novel DOING IT. (If you haven't read the essay, Google "Guardian Anne Fine Doing It" and you'll find a link.) To put it mildly, Anne Fine was unable to find the appeal in DOING IT.
Reading Fine's attack, along with statements by other writers about Burgess's proported attempts to "push the envelope" by having the male, high school characters so candidly discussing issues of male sexuality, left me somewhat squeemish about the prospect of reading the book. I'd heard lots of "Wows," but not any "Really great story!"
DOING IT is, in fact, a really great story about three male high school friends and their obsessions about and relationships with females. It is well-written and compelling, fun and honest and occasionally heartwarming. Those three high school boys are a self conscious, vulnerable, and sensitive lot. And while I cannot necessarily see myself as any one of those three characters, I had friends in high school who were dead ringers.
To argue that normal high school boys don't spend a lot of time thinking about girls and girls' bodies would make my high school experience abnormal. (It could be argued that Richie's Picks began in the late 1960s when I kept a secret, hidden list, updated weekly, of the ten girls at school I'd most like to be with.) To argue that boys aren't fearful about their adequacy, that they don't worry about whether their bodies are normal, or that they don't say truly gross stuff on a regular basis is, of course, ridiculous. And to argue that boys won't go crazy over this book is something that even Ms. Fine didn't even have to claim.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
According to Burgess, he wrote this, his third YA (young adult) book because, "I do believe that we have let young men down very badly in terms of the kinds of books written for them. This book is my go at trying to bring young male sexual culture into writing." I'm not sure I really buy the premise that teenage boys are lacking in representations of their "sexual culture," it may just be that they are located in film (from Porky's to American Pie to Superbad) rather than books. I'm pretty sure that one could make the reverse statement about teenage girls and film -- but whatever the case, one thing I have noticed as a casual reader of teen lit is that over the last ten years,YA authors and publishers have been increasingly heading for edgier and more controversial terrain.

This story definitely fits that mold, as it revolves around the sex lives of three 17-year-old boys in England and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to graphic language or description (albeit in British slang that American parents may not find as objectionable). It's not exactly breaking news that teenage boys are obsessed with sex, and what Burgess does here is try to give expression to that. While it does succeed in fits and starts, the story is more notable for how boring it generally is, and how soap-operaish the plotlines are, than it is for breaking any kind of new ground.
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