February 22, 2018

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What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis & Thalia Wallis | SLJ Review

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redstarWALLIS, Pete & Thalia Wallis. What Does Consent Really Mean? illus. by Joseph Wilkins. 64p. Singing Dragon. Nov. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781848193307.

Gr 8 Up –As a group of girls leave school one day, Amina’s phone blows up—a girl at their school has been raped, and everyone has something to say. Was she drunk? Was she conscious? Had she agreed to sex before passing out? A deep discussion ensues, and the girls all draw from their experiences as they explore notions of consent and respect, eventually settling on some fundamental declarations. “Relationships are meant to feel good for both of you.” “You need to be able to say no without feeling bad about it.” Then the boys show up, contributing their side of the story: the pressure they feel to appear experienced combined with a culture that values machismo. Gratifyingly, these boy tears get fairly short shrift. Instead, as the teens wander home, the book comes full circle as the boys measure their own relationships and attitudes against what they’ve learned. “I’ve never even asked her what she likes.” “I guess you just don’t do anything unless it’s a definite yes.” The kids are realistically diverse across multiple spectrums: black, white, sexually active, virgins, straight, gay, and bisexual. Some readers may interpret Amina, who wears a headscarf, as abstinent, as she contributes no firsthand experiences to the discussion, despite being very well informed. Content that could be heavy with pedagogy is instead lightened by informal, occasionally profane language and friendly teasing. VERDICT While undeniably talky, this sex-positive and inclusive book offers a down-to-earth approach to an awkward subject. Belongs in every middle and high school library.–Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

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