Affairs of the sixteen year old heart

Melvin Burgess. Doing It. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004.

external image 16147352.JPG Doing It is a young adult novel that shows the reader the world of sex and hormones through the eyes of teenagers. It shows how the mind of teenage boy is a complicated place driven by emotions and desires; no boy wants to be the last one who still hasn't "done it." The story focuses on three main boys, Dino, Ben, and Johnathan. Dino likes to be the center of attention and finds himself to be a perfect specimen of what a teenage boy should be like. Yet he is naive to the fact that most of the time he just sounds like a complete jerk when he talks to girls. His character is very confident and honest. His haphazard honesty draws girls to him to since it shows that boys do actually have feelings. There is Jonathon who is kind of the awkward one in the group. He cares a lot about what his buddies think of him so he avoids going out with a girl that he really fancies because she is a little bit on the plump side. He eventually comes to terms with his feelings and goes for the girl, but is still held back by insecurities about himself. He struggles with moving past his nervousness to achieve his ultimate goal. Finally, there is Ben. His situation is not quite as juvenile as the other two in the sense that he is dealing with an adult. Ben is having an affair with his teacher, Miss Young. Part of him really enjoys all of the experience of being with an older woman, but the other side of him really just wants to be like all the other teenagers. When he decides to try to break off the relationship he comes face to face with Miss Young's very adult problems and has to deal with these in the only ways he knows and by using what little real world experience he has. This book shows how these teenagers deal with intense emotions and lust and how they have to pick themselves up when things go wrong. There is more than just teenage love throughout the book. Although the book never shows the first person point of view from any adult it still shows the struggle they face with love and sex. "You know what, when it comes to affairs of the heart we're all just about sixteen years old." (184 Burgess). Dino's mom explained perfectly after her affair being discovered.The whole book showed this fight between love, lust, and living life outside of those feelings.

Recommendations for Teachers
This book brings to life what students do after school, how their minds are working and what they are generally thinking about: Sex. But more than that, it shows how strong relationships are to teenagers. Not just boyfriend and girlfriend relationships but friendships and relationships with their parents. Doing It would be a smart read for a teacher to open their eyes to what their own students may be thinking about. The book will, at the very least, help teachers understand struggles students are facing with saving face and finding their own identity. This could be a good read for parents as well. I think that the book, although shocking at points, is very honest in how it talks about the situations these characters are facing.

Although this book is very blunt about promiscuity teenagers would connect to the characters while reading it. They will be able to empathize with the raw emotions each character feels. Perhaps by reading it would help them with some of the decisions they are facing or pressures from other students. As cliche as it is knowledge is power and I think this book gives good insight into situations that might arise. Burgess's book is controversial, but it touches on issues most Young Adult novels are scared to discuss with such vulgarity. Books like this are a necessary evil to keep parents in the right mind set about their children and to show kids what they might have to face.

About Melvin Burgess
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Melvin Burgess was born April 25, 1954 in Twickenham, Middlesex, England. He participated in a six month journalism class which sparked his interest in writing. He pursued his writing by starting with short stories and then moved on to write his first novel, The Cry of the Wolf (1990) He has won such honors as the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
After his first book gained some recognition he moved on and became known for his way of dealing with teen issue is a very straight forward way. In his books such as Doing It, Junk, and Lady: My Life as a Bitch he confronts subjects such as teen sex and drug addiction.
Doing It was made into a TV series by creators Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah titled Life as We Know It.


An interview with Melvin Burgess on The Book Show. he talks about how teens read and what they read. He shares why he writes about such controversial topics, and discusses other books he has written.

A clip from Life as We Know It, a short lived sitcom/drama on American television, based on Burgess's book, Doing It.

Additional Resources: Check out his blogs, interviews, what books he has, and other things involved with the Author Find out more biographical information, along with a list of books he's written and a list of prizes and awards. Melvin Burgess's MySpace. Book reviews for several of Burgess's novels. A review of Doing It by writer Rachel Evans. Lesson plans for The Cry of the Wolf and Smack. Doing It
on Features book reviews from readers. Publisher drops Burgess's controversial book Nicholas Dane. Interview with Melvin Burgess. Television show
Life as We Know It on

--Eric Kehoe, Melanie Vandenberg, Kendra Woody.