I’m not sure why I have so many books about teen sex here, but I do (and there are two more coming). I picked this one up because I wanted to read a good multiple-perspective book. But I really believe books can be an awesome form of family therapy. Not sure how to bring up the subject? How about a book club? Maybe with some other teens and their parents, or maybe just with you and your own child. Books allow us to go places that are just too tough for normal conversation.
Jumping off swings by Jo Knowles is a good YA story. It’s told alternately from 4 different viewpoints: a high school girl who gets pregnant, her best girlfriend, the boy who got her that way, and one of his friends, who also has a crush on the original girl. It’s a very realistic portrayal of high school life and the impossible ordeal these four suddenly find themselves in. This book wasn’t complex, and that’s what I liked about it–it was simple and very real. You get to know the characters and you feel invested in their story. You understand why Ellie has slept around, and you feel for her. You understand why Josh left her, and you feel for him. You understand the friends and their actions. You get a feeling for each of their families.
As a parent, I think the book would be a great one for kids to read. It shows good examples without preaching. It contrasts Ellie’s one-night stands, that leave her empty and desperate, with some longer-term and more caring relationships of other characters. Jumping Off Swings doesn’t scream at kids that there is only one way to do things, but it does suggest, using characters as examples, ways to think about teenage relationships. And the multiple-character viewpoints allow the reader to see how many people can change from one event.
The book doesn’t sugarcoat any of the issues. It deals realistically with the difficult decisions of abortion, adoption, and teen pregnancy. It doesn’t lecture; it just shows you the heart-wrenching emotions Ellie experiences as she carries a new life inside of her. The four students in the book grow up quickly as they face issues they never thought they’d have to (which is sort of the point; hopefully reading books like these will show teens that these are issues they should be thinking about, no matter what kinds of decisions they are making).
A book like this is a good start to any parent-teen conversation about sex. The important thing is that you are involved in the conversation. Books can help give your children facts; you can help give your children guidance.