Losing it by Julia Lawrinson
Penguin Australia, 2012. ISBN: 9780143205654.
(Ages: 16+) After writing two historical YA novels (Bye, Beautiful, 2006 and The Push, 2008), Lawrinson has returned to a contemporary setting, and a lighter tone. Although, in choosing to write about four girls challenging each other to lost her virginity, Lawrinson has not shied away from contentious subject matter.
Bree, Zoe, Mala and Abby have been best friends, and the school's resident Geek Girls since they won scholarships to the prestigious local Anglican school. Now, starting Year 12, bonding over a bottle of vodka, the girls take up a dare by Bree to try to lose their virgin status before schoolies week.
The narrative is structured into four parts, with the girls each chronicling her own story. We start with Zoe, move onto Abby, then Mala, finishing with Bree. The girls all think they know each other well, but secrets and layers and fears are revealed and the girls emerge as individual, distinct and flawed. There are moments of awkward fumblings in a Ford Yaris, and an embarrassing encounter with a migrant grandma, which although are familiar and somewhat predictable, are described with precision and clarity, and are basically very, very funny. The sex scenes are not graphic, but nor do they occur off-stage, so parents and educators need to be aware of this fact.
Despite the seemingly heavy issue, Lawrinson handles it with a deft and humorous touch, allowing her messages to come through with warmth and affection as opposed to melodrama and angst. She neither judges or condones the girls' behaviours or choices; instead she asks readers to realise that everyone has baggage and there is no one way, or right way to connect with another person intimately. The ending is perhaps too neatly and quickly resolved, but speaking for myself, I was satisfied to see the girls stronger and more confident, and most of all, happy.