Allison's Book Bag

Unslut by Emily Linden

Posted on: May 17, 2016

Unslut by Emily Linden is part diary and part commentary, both of which I have mixed feelings about. Linden’s memoir is also part of a bigger project, one which includes a documentary and an online forum. The project is intended to provide support to girls who have experienced “slut-shaming” and “sexual bullying”, a goal which I commend.

As a diary, Unslut succeeds on some levels and not on others. Many girls in middle school face almost daily mood swings, run through friends like they do clothes, obsess about their dating life, and feel as if their world as they know it is over. In just one week’s worth of entries, LInden goes from loving her life to hating her life right back to loving her life. And in a month’s worth of entries, she’s lost some old friends while also gaining some new friends. As for her dating life, the diary brought back memories both of my own “love-me” and “love-me-not” odes, as well as that of the teen girls whom I have mentored. The turmoil of an adolescent girl’s life seemingly never ends. On all these accounts, the diary succeeds.

Where the diary fails is its non-stop entries about boys, boys, and boys. Even in middle school, girls do have other worries such as: their looks, their grades, their parents, their teachers, and their future. In her commentary, Linde herself refers to a summer camp where no one knew her as anything but an enthusiastic singer, suggesting that a world did exist for her outside of boys. Yet I don’t get that idea from Unslut, which is supposedly a word-by-word reprint of her diary. Instead Unslut leads me to believe that every emotion, every friendship, and every choice that Linden made arose from status in the dating world. As such, the diary feels counterproductive to the modern empowerment messages for women.

With regards to the commentary, it too succeeds on some levels and not on others. Linden’s explanation of how popularity was evaluated and of what the four sexual bases meant to her generation provides helpful context to her diary. Even informing readers of such trivial matters such as what a certain candy tasted like or what certain singers sang like was interesting in its own way. On the flip side, Linden’s snarky comments and moralizing statements detracted from my ability to enjoy the emotional narrative of an eleven-year-old. Moreover, because they’re incorporated as annotations to her diary entries, the comments felt cumbersome to read.

Finally, I have a caution. A quote on the back cover says that the diary should be required reading for all teens. Unless this happens with parental guidance, I disagree. First, there’s the casual use of the F word. Second, there are explicit sex scenes. Third, Linden claims there’s a double-standard, but then doesn’t consider the pressures that guys themselves might face to know if a double-standard really exists. Fourth, I’m not completely comfortable with Linden’s message. Is she saying that society should be more careful in how it discourages sexual activity or that teens should be encouraged to explore all the bases? There’s an important difference.

Linden’s heart is in the right place with The Unslut project. Her online project has apparently caused many females to share their own stories of being labeled sluts. I hope that her printed memoir will stir an equal amount of discussion, for it is only in talking about why adolescents obsess about the opposite sex, desire to reach third (or fourth) base, and then condemn each other for these choices will we truly grow as a society. I’m just not sure it will.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

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2 Responses to "Unslut by Emily Linden"

Well, I won’t read this book. I’m not all that thrilled about the title. It had my mind going in several different directions.

Excellent review.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

I had looked forward to reading this book. Bullying is a serious social dilemma. True stories can help everyone better understand how it arises and how we can stop it. Sadly, this memoir really disappointed me.

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