The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Sep 29, 2012

I would describe myself as a fairly cautious reader. When it comes to violence, language, or sex, I tread carefully and usually stop or skip if it looks like it's going somewhere I don't feel comfortable with. I rarely read a book without it first being recommended to me by someone I trust. As intriguing as the find-the-most-captivating-cover-on-the-library-shelves method sounds, I just can't do it. Choosing blindly leaves me tense as a reader, wondering what kind of content is lurking just around the next page.

So it was with joy that I found this list of "Clean Romances" on Teri Harman's blog. Teri is a Utah blogger and author, and I've really enjoyed the segments (like this one) she's put together on Studio 5. Anyway, I was so excited to see The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen featured on this list. I had been wanting to read something by Allen for quite some time, and the label "clean romance" was just the green light I needed.

In her introduction to this list, Teri assured, "All of these books are free of graphic/descriptive sex scenes," and then she added the disclaimer, "In a few of the books sex occurs, but it is only mildly described or happens 'off-stage.'"

This...was not the case. (But more on that later...)

After her mother dies, 17-year-old Laura comes to live with her grandfather in small town Mullaby, North Carolina. Early on, she finds the town prejudiced against her because of secrets surrounding her mother. Contrast that with Julia, a woman in her 30's who has returned to Mullaby after a long absence. Her teenage years were troubled and difficult, and she is still working through some of the pain she felt during that time. For both of these characters, there are wrongs to be made right, secrets to be discovered, and romances to be pursued.

I listened to this book right after finishing Gone With the Wind (yes, that was more than a month ago...). Contrasted with that, it seemed incredibly fast paced. Important plot details and intriguing questions were introduced in the first chapter. It was just the kind of book I was in the mood for. Besides that, Allen's imagery was beautiful. I could see why people like her writing so much.  I was already making plans for reading some of her other novels.

But then...

Early on in the story, there is a flashback to Julia's turbulent teenage years. She is different and a social outcast. So when Sawyer, one of the most popular boys in school finds her alone on the football field and offers her comfort, she welcomes it, and after one night, she is pregnant. It was not a descriptive scene, and it was a moment from the past that was important to the present, so I felt like it was tastefully done. However, it did put me on the alert and not unnecessarily. Later on in the story, and back in the present, Julia and Sawyer's romance is rekindled, and before long they are sleeping together, and this time it was descriptive enough that I skipped over large chunks, all the time becoming more enraged that this was labeled as a "clean romance."

But what or who was I really upset with? Obviously, the label "clean" carries with it the same subjectivity that any label does. What one person calls "mild," another might call "offensive."  For me, I was disappointed that something labeled "clean" could  contain a descriptive bedroom scene, and also that those actions could be portrayed as a wonderful part of the story, a positive step forward in the relationship and something that should be applauded and dreamed for. (Just to clarify, Sarah Addison Allen did not give her book the "clean" label, so my disappointment has nothing to do with her ability or talent as a writer.)

This, of course, opens up a whole other topic, and one that hinges strongly on personal morals and values, which cannot be pushed onto anyone else but which nevertheless distinctly govern your own life. The reason a scene like the one I described above bothers me so much is because I believe that intimacy between a man and woman is sacred and should be reserved for marriage. When it is tossed around frivolously and joked about, it is cheapened. And once it is cheapened, then it is easily thrown into any relationship, and it means less and less each time to the point that now it can be included in a "light" romance and promoted as "clean." That's not right.

Sorry, personal soapbox. I hesitated even discussing any of this because I'm a conflict-avoiding wimp. Even though I have strong opinions, I hesitate sharing them with just anyone. You just never know how your words are going to be taken. At first I worried that if I ranted about the  book's content not being clean, then people would think I was prudish or overly sensitive. But guess what? I am prudish and overly sensitive. So I might as well say it like it is.

Besides all of this, the book was just not my favorite anyway. I could not get into the whole "glowing" gene. It seemed contrived and out of place.

If you've actually read this whole review, I'm sorry that it turned into more of a personal rant than an actual review. But I'm not sorry for the way I feel. Because convictions and beliefs? That's what defines us. That what makes us who we are. And there's no shame in that.

6 comments:

  1. So sorry you didn't love this one. I loveeeed it. I reallly like SAA. But now that I'm thinking about it, she does usually have characters engaging in unwed sexual relationships. She's good at bits of scandal. So yah, I would never call her work "clean". And you make an excellent point, the term is subjective. I rarely label things clean.

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  2. Thank you for writing this post because 1. It WAS brave (love paragraph 8) and 2. You made a reference to a book that you hadn't loved in a previous post which got me curious so I checked goodreads and figured it had to be this one and, frankly, I've been so curious as to why it got 2 stars and why it wasn't what you were expecting. It's like a car crash or a squashed bug, ya know. I'm glad to have that cleared up.

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  3. I love Sarah's books, but I didn't love this one. I just thought it wasn't her best (that would be Garden Spells!). My fav after that was 'The Sugar Queen' -- I definitely wouldn't call her books clean romance though, I wonder who dreamed that up???

    I'm overly sensitive too! :)

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  4. Did you read Austenland? I was really disappointed with that one, to be honest. I must be totally prude :).

    Alicia (not Curtis)

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    1. Yes, I did, and yes, I agree with you!

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  5. Yeah, this is why I read a lot of kid's fiction cause I don't want to deal with this. I think especially in today's world it is very rare to find a book that is clean enough for my tastes.

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