Title: Adult Virgins Anonymous (review copy)
Author: Amber Crewe
Blurb from Goodreads
Are you still a virgin?
Want to talk about it in a safe space?
Meetings every other Tuesday.
You’re not alone.
Kate Mundy’s life is not going to plan. Nearing thirty, she’s been made redundant from her job, her oldest friends have quietly left her behind, and she can barely admit her biggest secret: she’s never even been on a date, let alone taken her underwear off with a member of the opposite sex.
Freddie Weir has spent most of his twenties struggling severe OCD and anxiety, and now his only social interactions consist of comic book signings and fending off intrusive questions from his weird flatmate Damian. There’s no way Freddie could ever ask a girl out and now he’s wondering if this is the way it might be forever.
When Freddie and Kate meet at a self-help group for adult virgins, they think they might just be able to help each other out so they can both get on with finding their real romantic destinies. But might these two have more in common than just their lack of experience?
This book has some great intentions that I truly admire. It seeks to normalise adult virginity as not being the remit of *freaks* but instead either happy lifestyle choices (e.g. being asexual) or just circumstances of life. Honestly, it’s super exhausting how there are so many reality TV shows that attempt to demean people who don’t date much or are adult virgins by turning their lives into something to be pitied. So kudos for this book for giving us a nice diverse range of adult characters who happen to be virgins whether be it by choice or otherwise.
The book primarily follows two characters, Kate and Freddie, who meet at a support-group meeting for adult virgins. Neither of them are happy about their sexual relationship status and feel almost that they are the last virgins on the planet. So the meeting becomes a place for them to find comfort and no judgment.
Kate has always thought of sex as something to be shared with someone she loves. She thought she’d have sex at university, but it didn’t happen for her then nor did it happen in the years following as she was attempting to create a career for herself. She’s now nearing thirty, her career trajectory has taken a sharp decline, and finds herself alienated from her school friends and without the funds to keep her apartment so has to move back home to her parents’ house.
Freddie is the same age as Kate. He fell in love with a girl at university but didn’t realise it was one-sided. That his affection for her was purely friendship from her viewpoint. This deeply affected his self worth around women and made him unable to date due to nervousness. Coupled with this were depressive episodes that required family intervention (alluded to rather than fully described in the plot) and a lifelong struggle with anxiety and OCD. I particularly liked all of the storyline with Freddie’s family and how they treated him with this mixture of kid gloves and utter disrespect for his lifestyle/career choices etc.
But through the meeting these two characters come together and help each other with their own insecurities through a sense of kinship and a deepening friendship.
This was a nice story overall. I appreciated that the lead characters were given background storylines that made them feel authentic and well rounded on the page. I also liked how their virginity was never demeaned, belittled or used for a cheap laugh at any stage.
What I was less keen on was the romantic aspect that developed between Kate and Freddie.
Perhaps this is just my personal take but I didn’t feel like the first half of the book gelled well with the second half. What started out interesting and more of a gritty storyline, ultimately turned into a romantic comedy and for me the two halves just clashed. I do appreciate that ultimately the ending was very well handled and neither Kate’s nor Freddie’s struggles with their self confidence was swept under the carpet for a cookie cutter finish, but I just didn’t get their romantic connection. It felt too convenient. I understood them as friends because of their shared self-worth struggles but I never felt that spark of romance between them. It happened a bit too quickly I feel and I think there should have been a longer path of self-discovery for both of them, rather than their falling in love helping with their respective self-confidence crises.
I also feel that Freddie was unrealistically naïve at times. I felt his character should have understood more of the general knowledge surrounding sexual activity and the differences for men and women regarding how their bodies react when aroused etc. A lot of the time it felt like Kate was teaching him too much; so much so that at times it felt like he had never had any sexual education at school. Perhaps his excessive naïveté was meant to be the case but if so, it should have been more clearly conveyed.
However, I do have to give this book credit for not completely adhering to the typical heteronormative love story as it included characters that were asexual, gender non-binary, lesbian, involuntarily celibate among others.
Overall, while not all things were to my taste, it was a compelling read with a good mix of believable characters and a sweet storyline.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
E-book publishing 6th August 2020, Coronet
Paperback publishing 21st January 2021, Coronet