Review: Clare Strahan – The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge

The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge
Clare Strahan

Vanessa loves playing her cello and working hard at school to please her father. Her mother is unreachable – but at least she has her older brother for company. But she’s having fantasies about Dar, the guy she’s known for ages. Can Vanessa reconcile being a ‘good girl’ with wanting to grow up?

This is a sex-positive novel that doesn’t shy away from the fact that young women feel like sex just as much as young men are often depicted as doing so! It’s ok for Vanessa to feel like having sex, and it’s ok for her to have feelings for someone and touch herself. I think that this should probably be categorized as a young adult novel, but honestly teenagers the age of Vanessa (15 years) are probably going to be having similar feelings.

One of the best things about this novel was that it is set over summer, so it doesn’t make a huge difference as to what the country is of the person reading it. One thing that irritated me about this book (and it was quite minor, really) was that sometimes Vanessa would say things, and then would clarify that she didn’t actually say them! I wanted to shout at her to say the real things she was feeling! But the fact that she didn’t say them made her a more believable and honest character.

This don’t just have themes of teenage sex, it does also look at environmental activists and divorce. Yet the author doesn’t seem to be tackling too many themes at once – I don’t think I could have dealt with Vanessa having social anxiety or something else as well – her life is complicated enough as it is. This is a protagonist that some of the minorities can empathise with, even if her family is rich enough to have a mansion!

I received this novel for review a long time ago, and read my ARC as soon as it came in the door. Then I neglected to review it. So I read it again! And I’m giving it 4 stars the second time. I think it’s a really valuable and powerful novel that should be bought for secondary schools and teenagers worldwide.

Allen & Unwin | 24th April 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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