Being a Boy by James Dawson
Non-fiction review by M
Being A Boy is a non-fiction guide to ‘being a teenage boy’ written by a former PSHCE teacher (that’s someone who teaches you about puberty, sex and stuff in school). It is written with humour and illustrations, is full of surprises and guidance, and probably breaks with most taboos. It covers many things that go hand in hand with puberty and secondary school: feeling good about yourself, how you look and what to wear, how your body changes, being a ‘man’ and being a boyfriend. There is a lot about sex too.
The book’s emphasis is on feeling good about yourself and treating other people with respect and care. The guide breaks with traditionally heteronormative texts and takes the view that multiple sexualities and genders are possible and to be embraced. Each to their own – just do it with care, is one of the book’s many mottos.
Surprisingly, this is also a guide to ‘doing it’ in real life with real people. At one point in the book, Dawson warns that the squeamish should not continue reading (while I don’t agree with all of Dawson’s advice, follow him on this!). Again, any which way goes as long as ‘it’ is done with care and respect. Another motto: Use A Condom. And, of course, No Means No even if it’s said with a giggle, or in slightly different words.
I’ve never read a guide to being a teen boy (there must be one somewhere!) and I haven’t read a guide to being a teenage girl since I was a teenager myself. What surprised me was an emphasis on getting a sexual partner. While Dawson points out that it is okay not to want this, I think the book overstates the need ‘to pull’.
Overall, I see Being A Boy as predominantly a teen boy’s guide to healthy sexual relationships. This book will certainly get you talking. If it does that, James Dawson will smile and say ‘job done’.
The book's motto round-up (as I see it):
- Respect yourself
- Respect others
- Take care
- Use a condom
- No Means No
- The internet sometimes tells you lies
- Have fun
Publication details: Red Lemon Press, London, September 2013, paperbackThis copy: uncorrected proof received for review from the publisher