Anatomy of a Boyfriend

In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was essential reading for young girls on the verge of puberty. The amusing and true-to-life narrative answers many of the questions its readers may have about their changing bodies and newly discovered sexualities. Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend, which is dedicated to Judy Blume, attempts to update this rite-of-passage story. Snadowsky introduces a post-millennium character who has passed through puberty and is now prepared to learn through experiences.

Dominique Baley, the virgin protagonist, identifies herself as perhaps the only 17-year-old who has never French-kissed before, but she has her reasons; she explains, “In my experience all guys can be classified as either assholes or bores, unless they’re both.” Dominique’s prejudices, however, take a drastic turn when she meets the gorgeous track star Wesley Gershwin and begins to experience the pounding heart, sweaty palms, and stomach butterflies symptomatic of her first case of lovesickness. Loyal to the 21st century, Snadowsky includes e-mails and IM conversations between Dom and Wes, adding to the authenticity of both the characters’ voices and the development of their relationship, which pushes past the platonic toward romance.

After 80 pages of sexual tension (and no action), Dom begins to wonder if Wes is gay or asexual. That is, until one night when she and Wes are home alone, when he finally gives her that coveted first kiss. “The first few seconds were weird, I guess because it was so new, and our teeth kept knocking together,” she reports to her best friend Amy the next day. “But soon we were sucking face just like they do in the movies.”

Following this first kiss, Snadowsky holds nothing back in her description of the couple’s emotional and physical interactions; she follows Dom and Wes as they touch all the bases on the sexual playing field for the first time. One particularly amusing scene takes place in Wes’ parked Explorer, where the two amateurs attempt to satisfy each other. It takes almost a whole page for Wes to figure out how to unhook a bra, while Dom compares taking off Wes’ shirts to “trying to change a sleepy, uncooperative four-year-old into his pajamas.” Before they have a chance to “go all the way,” a cop comes knocking on the windows of the Explorer — sending the two naked teens into a terrified frenzy as they grope for their clothes and pray not to be arrested. This ends their first naked sexual encounter with a bit more excitement than even Dom and Wes had anticipated.

In Anatomy, Snadowsky demonstrates a unique talent in her ability to create a character so true to life. Through Dom, Snadowsky captures how un-romantic and nerve-wracking early sexual experiences can be, without neglecting the excitement and personal significance of a young relationship. Under different circumstances, Wes’ attempt to stimulate Dom for the first time could have been a highly erotic scene, but the pair’s inexperience takes away any chance of being turned on. “I’ve only a vague concept of what I am supposed to do,” Wes says. “So I’ll need some instruction.” Before the scene develops into anything hot and steamy, Dom screams — not out of pleasure. She explains, “I hope I don’t look as annoyed as I am, but that was not fun.”

By April, Dom cannot stand to be away from Wes, and her incredibly strong feelings for him begin to affect all aspects of her life. Soon she is ready to give up an academic scholarship to Tulane and instead attend NYU because she cannot bear the thought of being away from him. With some hesitation, Dom eventually decides that Tulane fits best with her ambition of becoming a surgeon. She and Wes, Dom hopes, are capable of pulling off a long-distance relationship.

The much-awaited sex scene occurs after prom, but is far from stimulating to the reader. As expected, Dom is in immediate and incredible pain. Wes feels awful for hurting her and deems their first time as “kinda crummy.” Trying to encourage him, Dom insists, “It wasn’t crummy! The first time is supposed to be weird — if it were great on the first try, we’d have nothing to aim for later.”

Because the protagonist of the story is only 17, Anatomy of a Boyfriend may be more appealing to high school rather than college students. However, it is always refreshing to look back upon awkward adolescent experience — once life-ruining, now hilarious. Snadowsky’s sexual explicitness and references to technology provide a much-needed update to the more conservative Judy Blume classic. With Anatomy of a Boyfriend, perhaps Snadowsky can continue in Blume’s legacy of helping young girls discover themselves and their sexualities.