Dewey Daniels does not exemplify the typical dropout who leaves school because it is boring or not fulfilling his needs. He is not an alcoholic, nor is he addicted to drugs. He has no family living in squalor dependent upon his meager earnings for survival. He is just a 17-year old working in a hospital not because he was interested in becoming a neurosurgeon but for the sole self-admitted purpose of finding a willing sexual partner. His responses to his boss’s questions show that Dewey is intelligent, self-confident, and creative. But, he seems lost in a sea of uncertainty about not only his future but his immediate present.
Then he meets a kleptomaniac, Yvette Goethals, who works in the same department as he does. But, she does not appear to him as merely a coworker but as the first potential sexual conquest who he thinks will submit just by natural reaction to his gorilla stare. She not only resists his overtures but brings his symphony of attempts to unexpected closure until the X-rated ninth chapter. There, she brings out the best and the worst of Dewey, leaving him frustrated, longing for more, and heels-over-head in love with love, the act – not the person. His struggle to cope with his own inability to endure rejection, or the transient state of young adult romantic experiences, forces him to see himself and his choices as they really are in a volatile period of adolescent development.
Yvette is a representation of the harsh realities that face all youth – males and females – and her particular fetishes are extreme, a rarity that most young men might not find personified in just one potential mate. Her radical vegetarian behavior and peculiar quirks make her an attractive and exciting object of desire if one doesn’t mind horses in rented quarters or communal living with a questionably sane band she considers her extended family. Her adult attitude toward sexual encounters, a keen insight into the nature of passing affairs as no more significant than unseemly burps, makes her 18 years seem far more mature. Her small world has little room for others to grow in, but her pressure on Dewey to engage in introspection is admirable in spite of her unwillingness to be tolerant of his differences.
Dewey tasted the unique flavor of love as he thought it might be but realized that all things must pass, and this one certainly must most definitely pass for the sake of his emotional and physical survival. The three months duration of the story packs in more living and excitement than could be expected in a year, but Dewey used those events to help him reach the most important decision he would ever have to make – the decision to see himself as he was and where he was going. He had to take control Yvette, for all her faults, helped him do that.
Evaluation: This early Zindel work touches on one of the untouchable problems of teenagers – first loves. Adolescents are impressionable and react immaturely to the new experience of doing it, which to them is a sign of the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood. The biological aspects of sexuality are blind to the essential emotional and intellectual requirements which put the whole experience into a viable perspective.
Recommendation: All students should read this, both boys and girls, because it does address specific problems that they might otherwise not want to discuss either individually or as a class, particularly those students who feel that school does not offer the answers to their questions. This story is just one possible answer to the often asked question: What’s out there? The persona of Yvette might be shocking but not unbelievable.
Teaching: The story lends itself well to exploring choices one makes and judgments about characters who lead different lifestyles and the effects of those lifestyles on behaviors. The value of education as a foundation for professional growth and the consequences of bizarre activities on future choices and social reaction to far-leftist liberal attitudes are all open for acute examination.