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Losing it

Losing It - Julia Lawrinson You say “Virginity Challenge”, I think cliché-ridden teen comedy film featuring at least one gross-out scene and more double entendres than you can shake a stick at.Right or wrong, what immediately comes to my mind is the tired formula of a group of teens and their various misadventures on a “hilarious” quest to lose their virginity before [insert momentous high school event here].But Julia Lawrinson’s Losing It is not a cheap laugh at a string of sex jokes. While it definitely has its funny moments, this is a deeper look at four characters and the personal motivations and relationships that factor into their decisions.To be honest, I think a large part of my enjoyment of this book was because it caused a few flashbacks to “Reynje: The Teen Years”. I was a GeeGee. (No, not a horse, a Geek Girl). And the interactions between Lawrinson’s characters had me quietly chortling and feeling a bit nostalgic for my own high school shenanigans. (Because, confession: I actually liked high school.) In the GeeGees, Lawrinson has created a diverse cast of teenage girls – a cross-section of backgrounds and cultures that’s fairly representative of high schools in Australia. Year Twelve students Zoe, Bree, Mala and Abby enter into a challenge to lose their virginity during the year, keeping their experiences (or lack of) secret until the final reveal at Schoolies. (It’s taking all my willpower not to make a lame Schoolies pun here). The book is divided into sections, with the spotlight rotating from each character in turn as they relate what is essentially their final transcript of events. There’s some cross over between the viewpoints, and it’s interesting to see the events and characters from other perspectives, and the layers of context that develop as a result. I found Abby and Mala’s narratives the most interesting. (Oh Mala, honey. Let me give you a hug.) In their respective cases, Lawrinson does an excellent job of communicating very complex family dynamics in an understated and effective manner. However, while the circumstances of each character’s story are different, I didn’t find the voices particularly striking. The manner in which they all relate their version of events has a similar tone, which slightly lets down the concept of multiple narrators.Losing It is a very frank book, and it addresses the subject of teen sexuality in an upfront manner that manages to be sincere without always taking itself too seriously or talking down to its audience. Lawrinson presents a range of scenarios and character motivations, without screaming: “LOOK! OVER HERE! AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR TEENS!” Rather, she’s honest and sympathetic and has created a story that (in my opinion) will resonate with its intended audience.That ending, however? Yeah no. Not buying it. The neatness and the ease of acceptance with which the stories wraps up is a bit too tidy for me to believe. I appreciate the focus on the strong friendships, but I’m pretty sure that in real life there would be more emotional fisticuffs going on before the group hug. Overall, Losing It is funny, brash and pretty realistic. It’s not as gritty as Heartbreak High, but not as soapy as Home and Away (Triga might pass as a River Boy, but Matty is no Drazic).