Review: Easy by Kerry Cohen Hoffmann

Easy book coverFor full disclosure, this author is going to be my faculty mentor for the first semester of my MFA, which is why I picked up her books. However, I haven’t met her yet so I figured I can still be trusted with a review.

This book packs a lot in just a few pages (my copy is just over 160 pages). It really captures how much it can suck to be a teen girl nowadays—how unfair the world is with its conflicting rules about behavior. Jessica is fourteen and she’s suddenly discovered boys—and that they’ve noticed her, too. She takes walks along a busy road and when a man looks at her, she swings her hips and lifts her eyes.

I know this is stupid, inviting trouble. But it feels so good to be wanted, I can’t help myself.

All she really wants is to go out with Jason, but he doesn’t seem to care about her even though she keeps trying to insert herself into his life. She has an encounter with him at a party and

…after being kissed by Jason Reilly, I feel as if nothing can penetrate me. It’s like he put an invisible shield over my body with his wandering hands.

But he doesn’t feel the connection she does, or the specialness of what they did. She wonders,

How can I feel such longing for what was between us, and he doesn’t? I wish more than anything I could go back in time, fix the ugly parts of me that made him turn away.

But he’s not happy with just tossing her to the side. No, he spreads a story about her (that isn’t really true, anyway) and overnight she’s got a “reputation.” She also has met (on one of her walks, no less) a 20-year-old named Ted who’s clearly interested in her even if he doesn’t hold a candle to Jason. He believes her when she says she’s 18 and she ends up messing around with him and regretting it. She keeps Ted a secret from everyone.

In addition to her boy troubles, Jessica’s dealing with family drama and growing apart from her best friend, Elisabeth. Her dad is marrying his new girlfriend and her mom hasn’t gotten over the fact that he cheated and left her. Elisabeth is pissed off at the way Jessica is putting herself out there for Jason, when Elisabeth knows he’s not worth it.

Note that this book is not anti-sex. It’s all about self-respect and knowing who you are and what you actually want. It’s just not subtle, and felt almost like a fable to me, partially because of the shortness and partly because it was so message-heavy. But it still didn’t feel preachy. It’s just that there was no question what the point of each scene was. I suppose this is really more of a novella than a novel, with its laser-focused plot.

Although I enjoyed it, I think Easy would be a perfect read for younger teens who are more on the reluctant reader side. Short and easy to understand with a positive message about self-worth. It’s appropriate for boys, too, because of the questions it raises. A perfect opportunity to ask boys why they do that thing—why after someone has done something nice for you, do you feel compelled to do the meanest thing possible to that person and try to ruin their life? Why not at least say thank you like your mom taught you and leave it at that? I seriously don’t understand.