Friday, June 29, 2018

Review: Unslut by Emily Lindin

Kids are mean. This is not a surprise to anyone, especially not these days with all the focus on bullying and mental health. It is also no surprise to anyone who made it through middle school that those years are hard and awful. To be honest, if anyone had told me that having kids meant having to go back to middle school with each one of them, I'd have thought a lot harder about having them than I did. Many (most?) middle schoolers are insecure, confused, sometimes nasty or cruel, and aching to fit in. Emily Lindin chose to immortalize these terrible years in her diaries (thankfully mine were all pitched long ago) and now to share them with the world to shine a spotlight on the ugliness of slut shaming and bullying in this diary/memoir offshoot of The Unslut Project online.

Emily was 11 years old when her "friends" and classmates labeled her as a slut. Her diary captures her often casual acceptance of this label, the sometime hurt that it caused, and the boy crazy pursuits that it might have inspired. In addition to her diary from the time (names are changed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent), there are sidebars where adult Emily offers commentary on the entries written by her preteen self. The diaries are immature, repetitious, and painful reading. They are full of her crushes and the drama of frenemies. They will make you wince, sometimes with younger Emily and sometimes at younger Emily. The notes by older Emily range from interesting social commentary and expanding on the story she wrote down at the time to completely inane comments about pop culture, fashion, and other nostalgic "gee whiz" moments. The impulse behind writing the book was solid--slut shaming starts early and leaves indelible marks on these young girls--but in practice, the book is pretty cringe-worthy reading. If you want to read someone else's preteen diaries, then this might be the book for you. I can see how some people will be able to overlook the disconcerting format and the lack of real in depth analysis presented here. Me, I remember my own discomfort at that age, and as real and uncensored as Emily's dairies are and as thin as her commentaries are, I didn't learn anything new from them, nor did I really want to spend time in her preteen head, having long since thankfully gotten out of my own.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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