ON THE SUBJECT OF UNMENTIONABLE THINGS by Julie Walton

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Strait-laced high school journalist Phoebe Townsend has a secret life as the Internet’s most detailed and scientific sex blogger. All of her information comes from medical journals and books–really her only sources of knowledge since she hasn’t had sex herself yet–and it answers the kind of questions that she knows should be taught in sex ed classes but are instead swept under the rug by her conservative small town’s “abstinence-only” policy.

But when her decision to open her blog to comments and Q&A attracts the attention of an ultra-conservative local politician, Phoebe’s blog suddenly becomes the talk of the town. Although fellow teens seem grateful for the matter-of-fact information, adults either dislike the blog or are too afraid to get on the mayoral candidate’s bad side. Meanwhile, Phoebe’s work for the school paper has thrown her in the politician’s path, jeopardizing her anonymity. With her secret identity under threat and an unexpected love triangle making her life at school all-too-complicated, Phoebe has to ask: is fighting the stigma against quality sex ed really worth blowing up her life?

Militantly sex-positive in the best possible way, Walton’s novel includes a sprinkling of accurate information about taboo topics, including female masturbation, and a powerful call-to-action to fight for factual, science-based sex ed in high schools. By having her well-informed protagonist choose to wait to have sex until she feels emotionally ready, Walton provides a counter-example for anyone who worries that when kids learn about the existence of condoms they will immediately run out and have lots of promiscuous sex. That’s actually the main thesis of her work: information doesn’t lead to more sex. It leads to safer sex. Couched in an entertaining narrative with an unlikely heroine, repulsive villain, and tantalizing love triangle, Walton’s message couldn’t be more fun to read. I highly recommend this book to fans of YA Contemporary and any public and high school libraries who can get it past their gatekeepers. (Because yup, this book will be challenged. Oh, the irony.)

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