DOING IT: Yes, exactly what you think we're talking about.

Melvin Burgess. Doing It. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2004.
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Review

Doing It isn't just a witty title for this British Young Adult novel, it makes up the context for the entire story. Burgess crafts the main characters of the novel to fit many different personality types of teenagers in virtually any high school. As a reader, we get the forerunner and handsome high school version of Brad Pitt: Dino, the popular, but stunningly beautiful and just as equally nice Lindsay Lohan circa Mean Girls: Jackie, the student having a controlling love affair with the young Drama teacher: Ben, the cruel jokester who uses words as a means to bottle up his insecurities: Jonathon, the slightly overweight kind-hearted and seemingly most confident one of the bunch: Deborah, and the angsty, rebellious, experimental, and adrenaline seeker: Zoe/Siobhan.

The content is entertaining but also heavy on the graphic images as a result of the sexually descriptive language. Burgess addresses the raging hormones of teenagers extremely well, and the reader can see inside their thought processes through multiple perspectives--something Burgess has done in other popular novels like Smack. Changing the point of view between the main characters is a wonderful tool to sneakily persuade a teenager reader to connect their schema and personal experiences to that of the narrator.

Burgess is connecting a larger picture in this seemingly self-explanatory novel. He addresses the insecurities of teenagers, peer pressure, the home culture, and the down-right dirty thoughts of hormonal adolescents. Through the macho Dino, Burgess weaves this character from start to finish with the most thematic and humorous resolution. Dino cheats on Jackie, catches his mother cheating and has anger bursts in front of his family--finally showing emotion besides pride in his ego and raging hormones--and ultimately at the end, doesn't want to have sex just for sex anymore. His changing moment is finally shutting down his on again/off again relationship with the hottest chick in the school, Jackie. But as a little twist for giggles and to remind the reader that this novel is about teenagers, their mistakes, and their attitudes towards sex, Dino finds a sweet girl Marianne--whom his friend Ben has been crushing on for ages--to start a meaningful and most-likely sex-filled relationship.

Recommendations for Teachers

This is not a book for the prudish, nor those who think that harsh reality doesn't have a place on a classroom bookshelf. Due to the graphic sexual content of this book, any teacher who tries to actually use it as a classroom text would most likely find themselves fired if working in a typical public or private school. However, it is a wonderful book to have on one's shelf that students could choose to read of their own accord.

Burgess treats the subject of sex using very realistic, believable language presented from revolving points of view. Because of the topic and accessible language, there is a good chance that students would definitely choose to read it. They may be reluctant to discuss the book with the teacher, however, because of the potentially embarrassing subject matter. The explicit description of sex has the potential to make most students uncomfortable in the presence of adults.

The real value in this book is the frank portrayal of how teens view sex and all the different relationships and emotions that go along with it. It would probably be most useful for a teacher to read to help them understand where their students’ minds are most of the time! It’s been a long time since most teachers were teenagers, and the teen sex scene may have changed quite a bit since then.

About Melvin Burgess

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Melvin Burgess was born on April 25th, 1954 in Twickenham, Middlesex, England. While spending a large portion of his adolescence near Crawley in Sussex, he moved to Reading, Berkshire at the age of twelve. After his early schooling, he enrolled in a six month journalism course and moved to Bristol at the age of 21. In Bristol, he began writing in between periods of employment. He continued his passion for writing after moving to London in 1983, experimenting with short stories, radio plays, and children's fiction. His first published book, The Cry of the Wolf was written in 1990.

Melvin Burgess has achieved great success with his writing, although he is considered a controversial figure. His controversial novel Junk, was written 1996 and won the Carnegie Medal, as well as the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. In 2003, Burgess produced another controversial teenage novel, Doing It, in which this review is based. Melvin Burgess is currently living in Manchester, England and is open for talks at schools and conferences.

All information about Burgess is retrieved from his biography here.


List of Works by Melvin Burgess:
The Cry of the Wolf Andersen Press, 1990
An Angel for May Andersen Press, 1992
Burning Issy Andersen Press, 1992
The Baby and Fly Pie Andersen Press, 1993
Loving April Andersen Press, 1995
The Earth Giant Andersen Press, 1995
Junk Andersen Press, 1996
Tiger, Tiger Andersen Press, 1996
Kite Andersen Press, 1997
The Copper Treasure A & C Black, 1998
Bloodtide Andersen Press, 1999
Old Bag Barrington Stoke, 1999
The Birdman (illustrated by Ruth Brown) Andersen Press, 2000
The Ghost Behind the Wall Andersen Press, 2000
Billy Elliot (novelisation based on the screenplay by Lee Hall) Chicken House, 2001
Lady: My Life as a Bitch Andersen Press, 2001
Doing It Andersen Press, 2003
Robbers on the Road A & C Black, 2003
Bloodsong Andersen Press, 2005
Sara's Face Andersen Press, 2006
Nicholas Dane Andersen Press, 2009

Multimedia (Video or Audio)



External Links:


Statistics and facts pertaining to teen sexual health:
News Articles and the condemnation of teens' sexual activity:
Sexual Education Resources:



--Kyle Deuling, Mariah Price, Chris Jobin, Kelly Cleypool, and Maya Soter (Melvin Burgess-//Smack//)