cover image DOING IT


Melvin Burgess, . . Holt, $15.95 (326pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7565-6

Fun, peppy and unusually frank (but ultimately sweet-natured), British author Burgess's (Smack ; My Life as a Bitch ) novel starts out with an attention-grabbing scene in which the central characters enjoy a hypothetical discussion about having sex with an array of women that includes a bag lady, classmates, teachers and even the Queen. Once the author establishes the central theme without a shade of a doubt, he briskly outlines each boy's circumstances. Gorgeous charmer Dino is about to plunge into an on-and-off-again romance with top girl Jackie; diffident Jonathon must sort out his feelings about plump (but secretly luscious) Deborah, who clearly fancies him; and Ben gradually realizes he must extricate himself from a relationship with his unstable 20-something teacher. Even the most attention-deficient reader will likely be captivated by the adrenaline-pumped narration told from the points of view of the three boys and assorted other characters (including various girls and even a parent) and skitters between the first and third person. The abundant use of British slang—especially for matters sexual—gives the story an exotic, slightly Austin Powers–like charm and, for an American audience at least, somewhat defuses the explicit nature of the material: it's hard to get worked up about a word like "minge" if you haven't grown up with it. Fans of Louise Rennison's Angus, Thongs books will appreciate the male perspective offered here, while readers of both sexes whose hormones have just begun to simmer will welcome (and even be reassured by) a book that so accurately mirrors their new world view. Ages 16-up. (May)