I’m very torn about the New Adult genre. On one hand, I think it has the possibility of being an avenue of self-discovery, or of exploring rites of passage that are more mature than what you would find in a young adult book – namely sexual discovery, the transition from university to the workplace, or the afflictions of growing up. In a sense, I think New Adult could be a genre of empowerment and openness; if authors can explore these things with sensitivity and maturity without omitting the mature content and its details, then I think New Adult could be a great genre.
On the other hand, the New Adult genre could be those things, but it isn’t. From what I have inferred – from many, many reviews of many, many different books – the New Adult is far from that. It is overrun with misogyny and sexism (hypermasculine men, slut shaming, or objectification of women; you name it) and filled with authors who exploit sexist ideals to make it ‘darker’ and ‘sexier’. So rather than being a force of change or restructuring how we perceive sexuality, it reinforces the same, old ideas we have about masculinity and femininity, and perpetuates unrealistic (and potentially harmful) fantasies of sex and romance.
With that said, what can I say about Foreplay? Aside from the fact that is probably my first New Adult book, it wasn’t terrible. Sure, the tropes I’d expect New Adult novels to have are all present and it isn’t a game-changing book, but I actually found it quite enjoyable (if you take off your critical lens whilst reading) and a fast-paced read, and I certainly got caught up in the moments of lust and thrill.
What I appreciated about Sophie Jordan’s writing is that she allows time for the two characters to develop slowly as individuals and as a pair. Rather than mindless, senseless sex, in which attraction arises out of desperation and blind lust, the two characters develop an unorthodox friendship that has trust (though perhaps fantastical) and a mutual understanding. As a demisexual, I like these portrayals of romance – not only can I easily identify with it, but it’s nice and heart-warming.
The misogyny and sexism in Foreplay is minimal. In a sense, this is a New Adult novel you can enjoy and not feel guilty that something sexy and enjoyable is being piggybacked by sexist themes. That said, my qualm with this book was that the male love interest was more of an ideal than a person; he was unrealistic (and I know why; the author had a goal and it was best achieved with the way he was written).
Though not very often, there were also several times when the reader was reminded of how masculine he was, and how perfectly contoured his body was (and just because the narrator finds this ridiculous, it doesn’t make it more realistic). I know why he was written this way. However, when I read about these male love interests with these key words or phrases are thrown in (masculine, contoured, rough, aggressive, hot, etc.), it pulls me back down to ground. For me, it is a blatant, conspicuous attempt by the author to remind me of how manly this man is and is therefore very desirable and sexy; it is very jarring.
I look forward to the day that I’ll be able to read a New Adult novel that doesn’t have a male love interest that has a six-pack, defined biceps and contoured muscles. Sure, all of those things are ‘desirable’ in men, but I’m looking forward to the day where a male love interest can be written to be sexy and desirable without a model or athlete’s body – I hope that, one day, authors can be at the forefront of dispelling the idea that men can only be sexy if they have a sexy physique.
Is Foreplay perfect? Not at all. Is it problematic? It veers that way sometimes, but compared to what is out there, I would say that this is safe. (Should we raise the bar lower then? No!) Regardless, I think it is important for me to say that I sought this book out because I wanted a light read at the end of the day – something to ease me into sleeping soundly. If that is the sort of book you are looking for, Foreplay does an excellent job. If you want something else, perhaps akin to what I think New Adult books ought to be, then move on — and fingers crossed such a book is written one day.
Book Name: Foreplay
Book Series: Ivy Chronicles #1
Author: Sophie Jordan
Publisher: William Morrow