________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 18. . . .May 1, 2009


My Parents Are Sex Maniacs: A High School Horror Story.

Robyn Harding.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
235 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-178-5 (pbk.). ISBN 978-1-55451-179-2 (hc.).

Grades 8-10 / Ages 14-16.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

*** /4



"Sunny and I have grown very close over the years. We have a lot in common and enjoy each other's company very much." My Dad pauses. "We've decided to move in together."

"What?" I say. I feel like I'm going to throw up.

"We've rented a townhouse in Surrey. We want you kids to feel welcome there, like it's your second home. Of course" 末 he coughs into his hand nervously 末 "it's not a very big place, but there's an extra bedroom. We hope that you'll be able to spend some weekends there with us 末 alternating with Sienna and Brody."

As predicted, Troy finally loses it. "I'll never go to your fucking townhouse!" He bats my dad's coffee cup off the table, sending it and its contents flying to the floor. "I hate you, you selfish prick!" With that, he runs to his bedroom.

Dad is pale under the fake tan. "He'll come around," he finally says. "I know this is a lot to take in at the moment, but eventually everyone will see that it's for the best."

"Right." My voice drips with sarcasm. "You just keep telling yourself that."


Louise Harrison is looking forward to a good year in grade eleven. Thanks to her super-popular friend Sienna, Louise is accepted by the main clique at Red Cedars. Her mind is filled with working on the sets for the school play, getting highlights in her hair, a future job in the fashion industry in New York, applying for part-time work at the local mall, and parties with the 'in crowd.'

      At the party to celebrate his fortieth birthday, Louise's dad is caught in a 'compromising position' in his basement office 末 with Sienna's mother. They decide to move in together once their affair has been found out, leaving Louise to deal with a variety of social disasters. The 'in' girls don't accept her now that she and Sienna are no longer best friends. Everyone at school knows about the situation so Louise feels her parents' sex life is a constant source of interest and amusement for everyone around her. So much for her hoped-for enjoyable year at school!

      This young adult novel is a soap opera saga of wild and outrageous events as Louise meets a potential boyfriend who turns out to be gay and as she copes with her mother's announcement that there is a new man in her life 末 Louise's math teacher! 末 and that she is pregnant. The chaos and confusion never seem to end. Harding manages this well since her characters' speech and attitudes ring true. She depicts the social scene of a typical high school with both wit and humour. Louise is a drama queen whose emotions change abruptly and constantly, causing her to exaggerate every small thing that happens. Readers will cheer her and yet at the same time shake their heads at her antics as drama descends more often than not into melodrama.

      On another level, Harding portrays a young woman who is really quite insecure and desperately wants to fit in with her peers. Louise finds good friends among the students working on the school drama production yet still yearns to be associated with the 'in crowd' rather than students stereotyped as a bunch of nerds. She suffers typical adolescent embarrassment about her hair and her clothes and her sex life, or lack thereof. As the title of the novel indicates, Louise is a teen who is both intrigued and nervous about relationships and sex. There are no truly graphic scenes in the book, but an interest in/obsession with all things sexual is evident in Louise and her peers.

      Although Harding's book is witty and great fun in most places, she also gives readers a first-hand feeling of what can happen if parents have an affair, divorce, and eventually go on to find new mates. The reactions of Louise, her brother Troy and her mother to her dad's mid-life crisis strike a touching chord, even if described in comic terms. Nor does Harding paint Louise's dad as totally a 'bad guy.' He makes an effort to stay close to his kids and keep involved in their lives. Perhaps this doesn't 'fix' the situation, but one senses he is sincerely trying to repair some of the harm caused by his infidelity. The choices made by the novel's adolescents are sometimes poor ones, but it is clear that adults aren't immune. They make bad decisions too.

      A great deal is going on in this novel, and there are times when readers may just think it is too unrealistic and silly. And yet the qualities of the characters, despite their crazy antics, make the book a real page-turner. Like real life, the ups and downs never quite seem to end, and there is no 'happy ever after' finale which miraculously brings everyone together and mends all the hurt feelings as though nothing has happened. On the positive side, Louise has learned a great deal and hopefully has the tools she will need to carry on into grade 12 and eventually after high school. In her own words, "Since Sienna and I have reached a sort of silent truce and the evil triplets are no longer torturing me, there's even a chance I might enjoy my final months at Red Cedars. Mr. Sumner is going to announce this year's theatre production soon, and I'm very excited about it. I'm becoming increasingly interested in a career in the theatre 末 or maybe even film. Now that I'm no longer on the periphery of the popular crowd, I don't have to pretend to be cool and blas about my interests. I'm free from the constraints that once bound me! Free to have passions outside of boys, belts and earrings. Of course, I would really like to get my hair highlighted again."


Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON, where she has turned her love of travel into a second career as a travel consultant.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright ゥ the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.