The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me
The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh is a cute teen romance with a substantial message. If you’ve been enjoying the Sex Education TV show, this should be your next read, because there are a lot of similarities.
Lacey, Evita, and Theo are the best of friends in their senior year of high school in North Carolina. They dream of attending a music college in Boston together, but then the school’s mandatory abstinence-only “healthy life choices” class starts.
Lacey is the daughter of a former teen mother and a nurse, so she’s been raised right. She understands safe sex and consent and avoiding shame when it comes to sex or issues of women’s health. When she realizes that not everyone in their class has this basic knowledge, she starts giving advice, egged on by the outspoken Evita. But Lacey is less experienced in practice than just about everyone else, and she’s starting to have feelings for a friend. Plus, since the school thinks any discussion of condoms is “lewd”, helping her schoolmates (including another teen mom) means risking her academic career.
I wish this kind of book had been around when I was younger. It’s great to see kids fighting to protect other kids from ignorance and shame. Since Evita is asexual and heads up the school Genders and Sexualities Alliance, there’s even acknowledgement that the issue doesn’t have to be heteronormative. Important information is provided in straightforward fashion without sounding preachy or judgmental, which is what adolescents need.
Of course, the romance is a bit predictable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the parts of this novel that will stay with me are the educational elements, the friendships, and the struggle to fight ignorance cloaked as morality. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)