by Daria Snadowsky
Review by Christian Perring on Apr 29th 2008
High school senior Dominique Baylor meets Wesley, who is a senior on the track team. Neither them has had a relationship before, and they are both shy and inexperienced. Dominique's parents are quite protective and she is focused on her work and getting into a good college. However, her friend Amy has had many casual relationships and hook-ups, and Amy encourages Dominique to get intimate with Wesley. It takes a while for the relationship to really get started, but by the time of the high school senior prom, they are renting a hotel room to have their first intercourse. Over the summer they have sex regularly, and then at the start of the fall they go to different colleges. They try to maintain a long-distance relationship, but it doesn't work out. That's about the whole plot; most of the novel for young adults is devoted Dominique's feelings, her relationship with her parents and frail but opinionated grandmother, her friendship with Amy, and the sex with Wesley. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is mostly remarkable for its sexually explicit descriptions of what Dom and Wes get up to; while the book isn't pornographic, it is frank about Dom's sexual curiosity and excitement, her ambivalence about performing oral sex, and Wes's failure to give her an orgasm. Dom also negotiates the moral questions of whether she should have sex; she is 17 and Wes is 18, so it is all perfectly legal. Her grandmother tells her that she should wait until she is married, but her parents don't give her any such restrictions, maybe because they don't even want to think about their daughter having sex. Dom and Wes are in love, and they are responsible in their actions, including using contraception and condoms and dental dams in order to avoid sexually transmitted diseases -- at least most of the time. There's a nice contrast between Dom and her best friend Amy, since Amy hooks up with many men, only requiring that she be attracted to them, but she has never gone as far as full intercourse. Dom is a pretty good role model for teen readers: she never gets drunk or high and she is never promiscuous. Nevertheless, she is heartbroken and furious when her relationship with Wes ends, and this helps her bond with her father, who never really approved of Wes anyway.
Snadowsky's writing is serviceable. Much of the text is dialog, Internet Messaging or emails, and the rest is narrated by Dominique. There are not many sexually frank novels aimed at young adults; Doing It by Melvin Burgess is told from the point of three British teen boys, and is far more humorous in its tone. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is more earnest, and is a little more conventional in its style. It's an easy read, and approaches issues of virginity, sex and love in ways that should appeal to teen readers and won't shock most parents too much.
© 2008 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.