Saturday, July 03, 2010

Book Review: Exposed by Susan Vaught

Book: Exposed
Author: Susan Vaught
Published: 2008
Source: Local Library

After her first relationship went down in flames last year, Chan Shealy is sooooo over real boys. That's why Paul is so perfect. He's online, hundreds of miles away. Just a long-distance thrill, a cute boy to talk to and flirt with, one she knows will never sleep with a cheerleader or lie about her all over the school. Plus, Paul is perfect in other ways too. He helps her get set up with a strength-training program that helps with her competitive twirling. He loves Emily Dickinson, Chan's favorite poet. He's hot and fun and thinks she's the sexiest thing ever. It doesn't take long before Chan's so wrapped up in Paul that her schoolwork, her relationship with her family and friends is suffering.

Paul is pushing her further than she wants to go, getting her to do things for him, and the camera, that she never would have considered. But Chan talks herself out of her doubts. Paul is perfect, right? Totally perfect. Plus her parents would go crazy if they knew what she was doing. She's not a baby, she knows what she's doing.

Then Paul crosses the line, and Chan has to face the fact that all his perfection might be a bigger lie than anything her ex ever did.

This book will make you incredibly uncomfortable. That's a given, considering the subject matter. But seriously, I was deeply uncomfortable as Paul coaxed, sweet-talked, and even lightly blackmailed Chan into creating sexy videos, and even managed to justify charging others for them so Chan always felt as if she were in control, even while it was obvious to me that she wasn't.

I grew up on the cusp of the Internet revolution. When I first got online, at about Chan's age, video chat was still confined to Star Trek. Recently, I was talking to older co-workers about Facebook and how even though I know, intellectually, that anybody can get on there and say anything, it still feels like a fun clubhouse where you can try things out in safety and privacy. If I have a hard time remembering this, how much easier is it for a sixteen-year-old to gloss over all the little things that are not quite right.

I had some nitpicks. Vaught has a trick of making up fake names for services we're all very familiar with. For instance, BlahFest is the MySpace/Facebook clone that Paul first uses to connect with Chan, and PortalPay is the secure payment website that funnels Chan's cut to her. We all know what they are, why not just call it that? There was a very slight subplot about her father's weight issues, which felt out of place in the midst of the rest of the novel. If it was a larger plot that was cut down, it probably should have been cut down completely. It didn't do much to support or feed into the main plot, except to provide an excuse for their mother to get uptight about Chan's changing diet.

But overall, this is a creepy and thought-provoking book, well worth the read.

1 comment:

readinglady said...

I love your use of the words "creepy" and "thought-provoking" together. Quite true! I haven't read this book so I can't speak on it specifically...but I think many of the "thought provoking" books in our literary history could also be considered creepy. Perks of Being a Wallflower? The Bell Jar? Even Holden Caulfield is a bit disconcerting. Perhaps, in the world of YA lit creepy is good? I agree with you that often certain situations explored in YA novels are just icky feeling.