Monique lives a perfect life – a preacher’s daughter and the girlfriend of the town’s golden boy. But it’s not that simple. She’s torn between her parents who want the pure virginal daughter, and her boyfriend, Dom, who wants to explore the more intimate side of their relationship.
Tired of waiting, her boyfriend breaks up with her, spurring Monique to discover she has a medical condition that makes her far from perfect and she concocts a plan to fix her body and win him back.
With the help of her frenemy, Sasha, the overly zealous church girl Monique’s mum pushes her to hang out with, and Reggie, the town’s not-so-good boy, Monique must go on trips to unknown and uncomfortable places to find the treatment that will help her. But in doing so, she must face some home truths: maybe she shouldn’t be fixing her body to please a boy, maybe Sasha is the friend she needed all along and maybe Reggie isn’t so bad at all.
*This ARC was sent to me via NetGalley by Hot Key Books YA, please read our disclaimer policy for more information*
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry was my No.1 read last year.
It was heartfelt and I fell in love with the characters immediately. The Young Adult romance book I wish I had when I was younger.
The moment I heard about Joya Goffney’s new book, I knew I wanted to read it. A Young Adult book that discusses women’s health? Where do I sign up? I had to get an ARC and thankfully, I was approved via NetGalley.
Now, I was going to wait until closer to the publication date to read this but I decided to treat myself to this book. I read this in January and the book won’t be published till May but it put it this way…I will be pre-ordering this book the moment I can.
Because Miss Goffney did it again.
At this point, I just want to know how?
This book felt so incredibly personal that I just want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you because the way this book was written…
I don’t even think I can truly put into words my feelings. I don’t know if I ever will be able to. But I’ll give it a try.
Before I begin, let’s talk about Vaginismus.
Vaginismus – is the body’s automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration. Whenever penetration is attempted, your vaginal muscles tighten up on their own. You have no control over it.
There is no obvious cause for this condition and it’s been more commonly linked to anxiety or fear.
I’d actually heard about this condition before I read this book. I just wasn’t expecting to feel the way I would reading it.
We’re introduced to Mo, aka Monique, a young Black girl who is the daughter of the town’s pastor. She’s in a relationship with the love of her life, Dom, the church drummer and a guy her father loves and respects. Everything is seemingly great for her, except she and her partner can’t have sex.
It’s entirely too painful.
And Dom gets fed up and dumps her. So, she unites with Sasha, a girl from her church and Reggie, the town’s bad boy, to cure her condition and win back Dom.
The way Vaginismus, sex and therapy is portrayed was simply beautiful. Goffney explores the possible mental, physical and emotional sides of Vaginismus. Through Monique, we witness her take ownership of her body, her mind and ultimately, her life. Her relationship towards sex begins to change and evolve. The emphasis on being a ‘good girl’ and obeying rules is instilled into her from a young age and we witness the detrimental effect it had on her growing up.
We see it all the time and how society explores sexual liberation between men and women. But yet, this was entirely different as Goffney emphasises that the pressure to abstain from sex comes from the church. It’s even more intense for Monique as the pastor’s daughter.
“We weren’t perfect. We were never perfect. We were liars and broken and unbalanced. Nothing about us was ever perfect…”
Now I was a bit wary as to how Christianity was going to be presented in this book. Normally, with a storyline like this, you expect unforgiving, controlling and ignorant Christian parents. It’s what’s been perpetuated in the media for a long time…and I was mentally prepared to be disappointed by it.
But yet again, Miss Goffney surprised me in all the best ways. Personal relationships with religion are delved into and play a huge role in this novel. It was my favourite thing about the book as neither were Monqiue’s parents portrayed as unwilling to listen.
They both showed growth and understanding.
And acknowledged that you can be wrong regardless of how old you are and it’s never too late to make amends.
And I think it’s so important as I truly believe forgiveness and love are two core principles of Christianity.
I think Sasha was important to show unique relationships with religion. Through Sasha, we understand just how beautiful and loving religion can be, rather than Monique’s view towards it as a consequence of growing up as the pastor’s daughter. I loved Sasha as a character and it surprises me every time how Goffney can create such beautiful, loving and supportive side characters that are instrumental to the protagonist finding themselves. Sasha was all that and more.
The romance between Reggie and Monique was beautifully sweet. Reggie was outrageous, daring but supportive and loving towards Monique, even from the start. There was so much he taught her and so much you could tell she simple learned from being around him and Sasha.
And most importantly, it was this idea of how much fear can try to dictate our life and how it can stop us from achieving everything that is out there waiting for us.
Monique had so much fear towards everything.
From disappointing her parents to upsetting her boyfriend…
My favourite thing with the romance was how well contrasted Reggie was against Dom, Monique’s ex. From the way they treated her to the way they spoke about her to other people – it was clear who was the better of the two.
“Reggie makes me forget that I have this condition, but Dom lets it define me. Dom makes me feel broken…”
By the time we got to the end of the book, I was ready to fly kick Dom in the face. But he was a brilliant character for Goffney to show how men can grow up with an entitlement towards a woman’s body, due to many factors but patriarchy being one of them. There’s an abhorrent desire that manifests into this possessiveness over their girlfriend’s bodies. We see it so much in today’s society. But I think this is why this is such a powerful YA book.
This was a book about a young girl finding herself and taking ownership of her body, and the power that came alongside it allowed her to be free.
She realised that her body wasn’t an extension of her parents or her boyfriend.
It was hers.
And in a patriarchy society built to nurture men’s belief that they are at the top of the hierarchy – this novel is important.
Throughout all of these messages, you’ll laugh alongside the characters from the cussing to the Insecure references. I adored it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I will pick up whatever Miss Goffney writes next.
I’ve gushed in her inbox so many times about this book that she’s probably sick of me but thank you so much for such an important book.
Liz Dexter says
That sounds excellent and important, and I’m also pleased that the religious aspect is handled respectfully and carefully – I found this to be true with Yinka, Where is your Huzband, recently, and it’s refreshing to not have the religious folk be one-sided bad guys.