Dino, Jon, and Ben have each got problems--a girlfriend who won't put out, a girlfriend who won't give up, and a predatory teacher . . . just for starters.Award-winning author Melvin Burgess has written a daringly honest and often hilarious account of contemporary teenage life, and the ups and downs that surround DOING IT.Amazon.com Review
Melvin Burgess, author of Smack, has written what is potentially the most controversial young adult novel ever. Doing It is an honest and funny book about three teenage British boys learning about themselves and life through their sexual experiences. But here's the catch: the story is told from the point of view of the hormone-sodden young males, naughty bits and all.
Gorgeous Dino thinks that equally gorgeous Allie should realize that they belong together and is puzzled and frustrated when their passionate lovemaking always ends with her refusing him. Jonathan fancies sensible, sexy Deborah but can't admit it to his friends, even after several steamy grope sessions, because she is…well…plump. And Ben is living every teenage boy's dream, an affair with a lusty teacher--but somehow it's getting to be too much of a good thing.
Nearly all YA novels about love and sexuality are told by and for girls, like Judy Blume's groundbreaking classic, Forever. The contrast here is striking--as Burgess said in an interview, "I wrote Doing It because I do believe that we have let young men down very badly in terms of the kinds of books written for them. This book is my go at trying to bring young male sexual culture into writing." The result is surprising but educational for female readers. Wisely, the publisher has kept the British slang terms for sexual acts and body parts, rather than using the American four-letter words, a factor that will make the book less of a hot potato for librarians and teachers, but not diminish the reading pleasure for the inevitable hordes of young male readers. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell ... Read more
Customer Reviews (18)
Brought me back to HS!
I found this book incredibly funny and it really brought me back to High School. My childhood best friend gave me the book last year and I finally got a chance to read it this holiday weekend and I couldn't put it down. It was a funny, lighthearted, easy read.
Raunchy yet Incredibly Fun
Let me preface this by saying - this book was incredibly awkward to read in public (as in, while in the break room at work) due to not only the title, but also the content. Regardless of said awkwardness, Doing It is a really fun read and almost too realistic at times.
Meet Dino, Jonathon and Ben - three juniors in high school. Like most 17 year old boys, they only have one thing on their mind - sex. Dino, a stock male who knows he looks good, likes Jackie - the hottest girl in school. Jackie, however, is so over high school boys and their immature ways - that is, until curiosity gets the best of her. Jonathon is good friends with Deborah, a sweet girl in his class, and that's it, he'll diligently remind you. Because Deborah, you see, is a bit overweight, so clearly he'll never be caught with her. That is, of course, until things get a bit crazy at a house party. And Ben - Ben has a secret of his own, one that can't get out, because if it does it'll ruin not just his life, but the life of the other person involved as well. The other female involved. The other older female who may be crazy involved. And thus starts Doing It, a book that follows the three boys through highs and lows, parties and breakups, mistakes and take backs. And, ultimately, through them not quite becoming mature enough to be men, but getting exactly what they're after.
Doing It isn't for the faint of heart - as the title suggests, it's rather racy and very graphic. But, that just adds to its charm, in a way. Melvin Burgess has a way of writing these private moments in incredibly raw and blunt ways. Just like guys are. As an author, he doesn't hold back. He wants it to be like you're in a locker room overhearing these three guys talk about girls. It's truthful. And because of that, clearly, as a female, I hated all three of them.
Okay, not really hated - they all had their charm, which, again, was what I really liked about the book. For instance, Dino is awful. He's the alpha; he's chauvinistic around women and macho around his friends. He's the most graphic of the bunch, constantly making sexual innuendoes and judging every girl by her looks (which, most 17 year old guys do). However, he's also sensitive. As he learns that his parents are having marital problems, you see a different side of him - the real side he hides from his friends. And although I thought the marital problems subplot was pointless at first, I realized how important it really was. It was necessarily in order to develop Dino's character, bring life to it. Jonathon keeps battling with himself regarding Deborah. Should he like her because she's great, or should he not because his friends think she's fat. And Ben, well, Ben learns that thinking with your brain is a bit smarter than thinking with...other body parts. In the end, he was my favorite character. He was smart, helpful.
What I liked most was that the end didn't bring magic and happiness. Sure, some characters changed for the better - learning from their situations, but some ended up right where they started. And that's what usually happens, doesn't it?
I liked Doing It because it really was a realistic portrayal of high school - how horrid it truly is at times. And the British slang (as Burgess is a British writer), just made it better. It's a book that should be given to high school guys, although I'm sure many teachers might disagree. Sure, there are graphic sexual scenes and horrid language, but there's also a bit of heart. And sometimes, guys really need that (heart, that is).
Way too British for most American teens
I teach English/Reading in high school and thought that this would appeal to high school boys.After reading it...probably not.First of all, they would have to ask me to translate the British slang literally every other page.The teen boy humor isn't funny to a 15 year old if you aren't familiar with the terms "shag" or "fag" (not the homosexual type.Perhaps, there's an off chance that they've watched the original "The Office" or "The Spy who Shagged Me" with Austin Powers but otherwise, it's just all lost on them.Most of the book is a bunch of adolescent boys talking about sex, not actually having it.Fairly harmless.
Laddish Lit for the YA Set
According to Burgess, he wrote this, his third YA (young adult) book because, "I do believe that we have let young men down very badly in terms of the kinds of books written for them. This book is my go at trying to bring young male sexual culture into writing." I'm not sure I really buy the premise that teenage boys are lacking in representations of their "sexual culture," it may just be that they are located in film (from Porky's to American Pie to Superbad) rather than books. I'm pretty sure that one could make the reverse statement about teenage girls and film -- but whatever the case, one thing I have noticed as a casual reader of teen lit is that over the last ten years,YA authors and publishers have been increasingly heading for edgier and more controversial terrain.
This story definitely fits that mold, as it revolves around the sex lives of three 17-year-old boys in England and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to graphic language or description (albeit in British slang that American parents may not find as objectionable). It's not exactly breaking news that teenage boys are obsessed with sex, and what Burgess does here is try to give expression to that. While it does succeed in fits and starts, the story is more notable for how boring it generally is, and how soap-operaish the plotlines are, than it is for breaking any kind of new ground. The first 1/4 to 1/3 of the book is especially tedious as Burgess labors to set up Dino (incredibly handsome and dating the school babe), Ben (apparently hapless with the girls, but secretly having crazy sex with a 20-something drama teacher), and Jon (the loudmouth with a crush on a slightly chubby girl). After this tedious setup, the book finally gets going as Dino encounters increasing frustration in his attempt to lose his virginity, Ben encounters increasing distress as his secret sex life, and Jon encounters increasing distress as his attraction to the chubby girl.
Unfortunately there's just not that much that's interesting. Gee, guys have anxieties about sex too? Shocking! Guys talk and joke about sex all the time in great detail? Shocking! I guess it's nice that the main characters express a range of attitudes, from Dino's extreme horndog duplicity to Ben's implausibly maturity, to Jon's aching obsession with how others will perceive his relationship with chubby Debbie. Similarly, the women evoke a range of sexuality, from pretty Jackie's on-again, off-again desire to "do it" with Dino, to Debbie's good-natured good-time attitude, to the teacher's sick emotional and physical manipulation, to a fourth girl's utilitarian attitude. But too many of the characters sounds too much alike, and like many YA books, they are generally a touch too self-aware to be realistic.
Ultimately, the book just isn't interesting or good enough to warrant the controversy it seems to have sparked (at least in England). Perhaps the most telling verdict is that it was the basis for an ABC teen series that lasted all of one year.
Does it do it? It does... but not for quite a while.
Melvin Burgess, Doing It (Henry Holt, 2004)
It took me two hundred seventy-nine days to read Doing It. While that's not a record overall, it's a record for any book that I've finished since 1999. (I plugged away at both Steven Rushforth's Pinkerton's Sister and Brian D'Amato's Beauty for longer--in the latter case, much longer--before finally defenestrating them.) The funny thing is, I read the final three-quarters of it in the space of a week; it just takes a long, long, long time to get going.
The story chronicles a year in the life of three friends, Dino, Ben, and Jonathon, in their quest to get laid. Dino has the hots for Jackie, the most desirable girl in school. Jackie is seeing someone else, but is flattered by Dino's attention. Ben is in the enviable (to everyone else) position of shagging the comely drama teacher, but has to keep it a secret from even his best mates. Jonathon, on the other hand, feels like a fifth wheel. Until, that is, the big party Dino throws at which to finally land Jackie... where everything goes *** over teakettle.
It's the party where everything takes off, Burgess hits his stride, and the words start flowing. The lead-up to it, though, which is roughly the first seventy-five pages of the book, is painfully slow, even for obvious setup. I probably wouldn't blame you if you gave up during those seventy-five pages, but if you're contemplating a book-burning, I'll ask you to give it one more chance, because it really does get easier on the eyes once you get farther in. ***
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