First, thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for allowing me to read an egalley of this title. Most of the time I’m not much of a contemporary reader. But this book had a very interesting sounding premise. And fortunately, it didn’t disappoint. This was a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. As I got to about the last third of the book, I basically was reading with tears streaming down my face. I had to sit and finish it at home the night I was reading that part, because I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to stop the tears, and didn’t want to read and cry in public.
The main character is named Mercedes. She has a mom that is pretty much absentee, and when she’s around she tries to be the “cool” mom. But Mercedes won’t have any of that, and calls her mom by her name, Kim. Mercedes has a thing that she does, she has sex with boys who are virgins. Not because she likes virgins or anything. But because she wants to help their girlfriends out. She wants to make sure the girlfriends are able to have the special “first time” that they want. It started with Mercedes thinking she’d just help out 5 boys. And that would be good karma. But then word of mouth spread, and more boys came asking for her help. A couple of the boys seem to maybe be not what they said they were. And one of them wants her help so that he can break up with his girlfriend, and not the other way she has always done. At the same time she has a “lunch” date with a boy named Zack every Wednesday. Only the lunch is really going back to her house and having sex. And to top it all off, her best friend is a girl who is extremely religious and wants to wait to have sex with her boyfriend until they’re married. And as far as Angela knows, Mercedes is the same way. Mercedes “service” isn’t one that is publicized. It seems to go just from one boy to another. Very hush, hush. It wouldn’t help the boys who had girlfriends for them to find out. So they keep it secret. But something like this, the more boys she helps, will become harder to keep a secret.
First, Zach likes Mercedes for more than just friends with benefits. But she won’t let him out of the compartment she keeps him in. At times even pushing him away. And then Angela’s boyfriend comes to Mercedes, supposedly at first just to come up with an idea for an anniversary gift, but then it seems maybe he knows what she is doing. Plus, there is a new girl at the school. A very outgoing girl, and she seems to immediately want Mercedes for a friend. This girl is very loud, and there is something about her that Mercedes isn’t sure about. Is the girl flirting with her, after Zach, or does she know what Mercedes really does that she doesn’t want Angela to ever find out?
And when it all blows up, Mercedes will learn who her real friends are, and also maybe more about why she does what she does. What her true reasons, besides good karma and helping girls out, are for doing this.
This was a very good story. Very realistic. Especially these days with the internet and how fast things can spread. You do get some hints about something that happened with a gardener that Mercedes’ mother had hired a few years ago. Also the fact that her father left is a big issue too. The story really hit a personal note with me. Some of the things she said and did with Zach reminded me of a few boys I went to college with and dated. The way the other students treat her when things start to come out in public was so harsh, yet I know that it was probably very realistic with what would happen in real life. The ending was perfect, and really, I can’t say a whole lot more than this is definitely a great read. I can see that it might be one hard to recommend to students as a teacher or librarian. Just because of exactly what the topic is, and how it is really the main part of the book. It is one I will have available for students though, as I feel it is something good for them to read, it could be the new Forever (by Judy Blume) in the way it is told.