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Restless Virgins: Love, Sex, and Survival at a New England Prep Schoolby Abigail Jones and Marissa Miley
Synopses & Reviews
Established in 1798, Milton Academy has a proud history of achievement. It has educated artists and CEOs; it has produced a long line of distinguished scholars and dignitaries; and it has shepherded students through the world of high-pressure academics for generations. Since its founding, the public face of Milton had always been one of integrity and pride...until a sex scandal rocked the campus and made headlines in the spring of 2005. The offense? Teenagers doing no more than what others had done before them — except this time they got caught.
Restless Virgins is the riveting real-life story of a group of seniors who were there as the "incident" (as it came to be called) unfolded: Whitney, the athletic and sensual beauty every girl wants to be; Annie, who craves acceptance but is torn between the desire for peer approval and musical success; Jillian, the smart one who is sick of high school drama and desperate to go to college; and Reed, a "hockey god" who has it all but whose charisma masks a secret insecurity.
From "friends with benefits" to STDs, today's teens face a wider array of social and sexual opportunities — and pressures — than ever before. Through its eye-opening yet sensitive depiction of a group of normal kids with normal struggles, Restless Virgins offers an important look at contemporary adolescence no teen, parent, or educator can afford to miss. And it is written by two recent Milton graduates who know this world — and these students — like no others.
"Jones and Miley are journalists and Milton Academy graduates who dig deep into the recent sex scandal at the prestigious Massachusetts prep school, focusing claustrophobically on seven classmates (four female, three male) over the course of their 2004 — 2005 senior year of high school. All seven are well liked, accomplished and pressured by their families. Eagerly subscribing to an intricate hierarchy of cliques among the Pryce Girls (named for a popular boarding dorm), the Day Student Girls and the most desirable boys, the seven are also stunningly sexual. At parties laced with alcohol and drugs, the girls engage in sexual play to gain popularity points and maybe a boyfriend. The authors catalogue a numbing litany of such hookups over the year, culminating in the revelation of a 15-year-old student's sexual encounter with five older boys in the locker room. The discovery led to the boys' expulsion and national publicity, but the real shame revealed in these puerile chronicles is the degree to which bored rich youth struggle to mimic the behavior of adults. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"When did teen sex get to be so dreary, so utilitarian, so crass, so ... skeevy? You won't find the answer to that question in Abigail Jones and Marissa Miley's 'Restless Virgins,' just wince-inducing confirmation that romance is as rare as a corded phone among adolescents — or at least among those teenagers privileged enough to attend Milton Academy outside Boston. The sex life... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) of Milton students came to national attention two years ago when five hockey players were expelled for receiving oral sex from a sophomore girl in the team's locker room. The girl, who was 15 at the time, was put on administrative leave and eventually returned to class, while three of the boys were charged with statutory rape. The Milton student body divided over whether such treatment was fair, but most seemed to agree that what 'Zoe,' as the authors dub her, did with those five boys was just an extreme version of what went on all the time at the school. Jones and Miley, who graduated from Milton a few years before this incident, claim that the scandal 'was entirely unfamiliar ground for us.' The young authors wring their hands and wonder, 'How were we to understand teenage life today?' Apparently, by exploring a year in the sex life of seven kids who were seniors when the scandal broke. These lives range from pathetic (hooking up with a guy at the ping of an instant message) to pornographic (threesomes in cars parked in public places). Jones and Miley patiently break it down for their aged readers: 'Few students formally dated at Milton; if a girl and a guy were in a relationship, it probably started with random hookups that eventually grew less and less random.' The authors never effectively explain why Milton is so much more oversexed than when they were there, or whether what they recount is typical of boarding schools, public schools or teens in general. Enough reporting elsewhere, including in this newspaper, suggests that a subset of kids, at least, are not the sweet virgins we would like them to be. Surely, though, Milton has its geeks, dorks and shy folks (me, me and me back in the day) to whom all this sex is as exotically remote as Xanadu? Could Jones and Miley not find a few of them to serve as a control group? Or have even the losers been pornified? What the authors do find, in depressing droves, are girls who are willing, eager even, to submit to boys. And to their credit, Jones and Miley don't gloss over how sexist, and humiliating, this state of affairs is. Jillian, a smart impassioned writer for one of the school's papers, recognizes that Zoe's 'behavior was part of a larger high school culture in which sex and girls' deference to boys reigned.' Yet, this clever girl (whose name, like that of the other students, has been changed) got drunk at a party and loudly begged everyone there for a condom so she could have sex with a boy who'd just told her he loved someone else. When one of Jillian's friends hears of Zoe's disgrace, she chants to herself in horror, 'I could have been her.' But Jones and Miley offer no conjecture about why this sex is so one-sided, why the guys get pleasured and the girls do the pleasuring. (And whatever happened to kissing?) As marriages move closer and closer to equality, why are teenage boys the keepers of the chauvinist flame? One kid, a hockey player but not a member of the locker room gang, helpfully explains that 'he loved not having to do any of the work.' So one could blame 'a sports culture that promoted the use and abuse of girls,' as Jones and Miley do for the event that led to the expulsion. But that doesn't illuminate why Annie drops everything to service Scott, a flabby fellow with bad breath. Adults are easily evaded in this world. Dorm rooms are sneaked into and out of. The parents of day students unwittingly host drunken orgies in their basements. And readers learn that it's easy to sneak into the chapel for sex during a school dance. One of the hockey players charged with statutory rape eventually sued Milton, claiming (with a straight face, presumably) that the school 'did not do its job in preventing sexual acts among students and fostered an environment in which students could easily break rules.' Perhaps the lawsuit is justified, but it's hard to tell based on 'Restless Virgins.' Jones and Miley don't seem to have interviewed any Milton administrators about the school's policies, the incident in question or even talked to anybody knowledgeable about teen sexuality, beyond the crazy, mixed-up kids themselves. While the authors sensitively convey how these particular kids explore sex, without any sort of context or any way to understand their behavior beyond their own explanation of it, the book merely titillates. And that's the last thing kids these days need." Reviewed by Rachel Hartigan Shea, who is a senior editor at The Washington Post Book World, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"If listening to teenagers you don't know discuss the minutiae of high school life — the hookups, the weight obsession, the spoils of popularity, the despair of lacking it — if that's your thing, then this is the book for you." New York Times
In the tradition of the bestseller Pledged comes this honest, intimate look at the wide array of social and sexual opportunities available to teens today — as told through the true experiences of friends at a New England prep school.
About the Author
Abigail Jones graduated from Milton Academy and has degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She has worked for the Atlantic and lives in Boston.
Marissa Miley is a graduate of Milton Academy and the University of Pennsylvania and has worked for Harvard University and the Atlantic. She lives in New York City.
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