When I started to date in high school I didn’t know anything about what to expect from a boyfriend, which meant that determining what was good and not so good in a relationship wasn’t all that easy. Thank heavens I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’ve spent time talking with my daughters about healthy relationships. Even so, I think it’s too easy for them to tune their mom out sometimes. That’s why I was happy to learn about this blog post by Kaycee Jane, author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends. In her post “Healthy Relationship?—how to tell,” Kaycee discusses signs of a healthy relationship using the frog and prince analogy. It’s worth reading and sending the link to your teenage daughter. A gentle nudge with another voice may just help her see relationships for what they are—good or bad.
Courtney Condon is a junior who is suddenly facing a lot of issues. The school club she started a year ago for students committed to staying virgins until marriage is being taken over by a new girl who wants to ramp us the club’s profile and be more confrontational. Her mother won’t talk about sex, and she acts as though it’s the cause of all evil. To make things worse, Courtney finds her own resolve weakening as she becomes attracted to the cutest boy in school, who has a reputation as a “player.”
As she navigates the minefields all around her she turns to the “Big V,” her virginity, for advice, and she’s surprised to find it sometimes answers back. Courtney’s observations about the world around her are often laugh-out-loud funny. Reminiscent of Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (Louise Rennison), Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe is for older girls who will appreciate the frank treatment of conflict between hormones and values.
The issues are definitely in your face, but the book provides a great forum for moms to talk with their high school daughters about important issues: premarital sex, appropriate behavior at school dances, sexual abuse, normal sexual feelings, dating, “good girls/bad girls,” seeing issues in black and white, and family rules. Fiction is a great way to address topics that have the potential to embarrass moms and daughters and inhibit frank discussions. Group conversation about these topics is also a great way to take the pulse of your daughter’s peers and other moms.
The author, Ellen W. Leroe, has developed some great discussion questions to go with Dear Big V that should be really helpful when discussing the book. Here they are;
- In the novel, Courtney talks to her Big V and the Big V sometimes answers her. Did this surprise you in a positive way, or prove distracting?
- Have you ever wished that you could speak to your virginity the way Courtney did? If so, what questions would you ask? Or perhaps you would like to communicate with another personality trait or quality about yourself in order to understand your behavior. What would that trait be, and why?
- Were the individual members of the Condon family fleshed out enough, and did their personal stories work to enhance Courtney’s problem with her mother?
- Did Maggie Condon, Court’s mom, seem realistic or was her stress about abstinence over-the-top?
- Was Courtney’s antagonistic relationship with Poe one you could believe? Did you identify with the clashes between the two girls, and if so, how? If not, why not?
- Mollie and Rob (“Roblie”) are depicted humorously throughout the book. Did that detract from the seriousness of their conflict whether to sleep with each other for the first time?
- Courtney strongly resents Lance “love ‘em and leave ‘em” Lindsey until she gets to know him better at Carlos Mesa’s party. Could you relate to her change of heart when she feels an unexpected physical attraction to him?
- Courtney sips beer at the party and dances closely with Lance, then later makes out with him in his car. How do you feel about her choices?
- Maggie Condon flips out when she catches Courtney dressed in provocative clothes, kissing Lance, and smelling of alcohol. Does this reaction ring true after you discover that Maggie Condon had been sexually molested by her uncle?
- Courtney and her mom are open in expressing their negative emotions during mother-daughter arguments. Can you see both sides to each character’s strong stand, and why mother and daughter feel the way they do?
- Many characters in Dear Big V keep secrets, one of the biggest being Maggie Condon’s abusive relationship with her uncle. What would have happened if Courtney’s mom had opened up to her family about her childhood sexual abuse at the beginning of the story, instead of keeping it hidden? Would that have changed Court and Cody’s reactions to their mother’s strict religious views?
- Courtney lies to her mother on certain occasions. Are any of these lies justified? If not, what would you have done in her place?
- Why is Courtney so angry when she learns that Mollie is planning to sleep with Rob on his birthday? And does her reaction change when she feels physically attracted to Lance?
- At the end of the book, Courtney is angered and hurt when Lance shows up with a number of girls for their date to Sadie’s dance. Yet she still is torn about staying with him as one of his dates. Did this indecision seem realistic?
- Do you think Court’s deciding to stay true to her values was a hard one for her to make? What decision would you have made in her place, and do you think she made the right choice in leaving with Mark to be with her mother?
- In the epilogue, Court and Andy resign from Donuts and Coffee when Poe takes it over. Was that a good choice on their parts, or should they have stayed in the club? If so, what actions would you have liked them to take to change Poe’s leadership?
- Discuss the way or ways Courtney changed at the end of the story. Who or what affected these changes the most, and why?
- Did the ending of the novel tie up all the loose ends, or were there still some questions left unanswered? If so, what were they?
- How did you come away feeling about the main characters (Courtney, Maggie Condon, Lance, Mark, Mollie, Poe)? Did all of them experience various degrees of growth or change, or only some? Did Courtney change the most after her experiences with Lance?
- What do you think the odds are that Courtney will start talking to her Big V again once she becomes romantically involved with Mark?