Tuesday 24 January 2012

24. Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Going Underground by Susan Vaught
Published December 2011 Allen & Unwin

From the publisher:Del is a good kid who's been caught in horrible circumstances. At seventeen, he's trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast-and a felon. As a result, he can't get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there's a sea of complications that threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again.
But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del's fourteenth year, we slowly learn the truth: his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo of herself, a teacher confiscated his phone, and soon the police were involved.

I try not to give away too many details about the books I read, as I don't want to spoil it for the readers.  In this case I am going to give away more, because of the content, it's not going to be a book for everyone (although maybe it should be). 

Del is 17, and when he was 13, he had a girlfriend who he loved.  They didn't want to have sex, they thought they should wait, but they did send each other naked pictures of each other.  When a teacher confiscates their mobile phones, the matter falls into the hands of the police, and then the District Attorney.  You see, Del and his girlfriend were under age, and in the eyes of the law the photos were considered child pornography, that and the fact that they had 'fooled aound' in a sexual way, Del was charged with rape.  There were other friends, and other 'sexting' photos, but Del was the only one who admitted to the nature of his and Corey's relationship, thinking that they had been doing the right thing (not having sex). 

Despite the themes, this book is not sexually explicit.  What we see is Del, at 17, struggling with what he is going to do with the rest of his life.  He is now living back at home (after doing time in juvenile detention), but he is a convicted rapist and a registered sex offender.  This means he isn't allowed to be in public places where there are children, he has no Internet or mobile phone, and he is being rejected from colleges, because he has to disclose the fact that he is a sex offender.  He works in a graveyard, has two friends, and a parrot.  His life was ruined, and he's still not sure that he ever did anything wrong. In fact he is is encouraged to speak at the High Court so that the laws regarding under age sexual contact between consenting partners can be changed. In Australia we are looking at finding a way to protect children against sexual exloitation from adults,  without criminalising them for their normal sexual exploration.

This book is set in America, and our age of consent law may be different in Australia, they even vary from state to state. In Australia we are looking at finding a way to protect children against sexual exloitation from adults, without criminalising them for their normal sexual exploration. I am not a parent of teenagers, or a teacher of teenagers, so I am not sure what is taught or talked about.  This book makes me hope that, as well as safe sex, the laws regarding under age sex are discussed, and also the new implications of the new trend of 'sexting'.  It is a look at things we do when we are young, without thinking what impact it could have with the rest of our lives. 

I know I have raved on a bit, but I wouldn't want anyone to pick up this book without knowing what it is about. 

Who will like this book: Girls and Boys Age 15+ and parents of teenagers
Read it if you like: Looking For JJ by Anne Cassidy or Good Girl by  Laura Ruby

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