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Consent and Teenage Vulnerability, a look at POINTE (Brandy Colbert) by author Christa Desir


When I was twelve years old, a friend of my mom’s became interested in me. Very young brides were pretty common in his country of origin and while he understood they weren’t common in the US, he started a strange sort of courtship with me. My parents had been divorced for a few years and while my sister was more frequently back and forth between my mom and dad’s house, I spent most of my time with my mom because she needed me more. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time with my mom’s friend.

From the outside, this man was amazing. Smart, handsome, very well-spoken, kind. He spoke to me like an adult and was seemingly excited by all my ideas and stories and thoughts about the world. He asked me endless questions and marveled at my clever answers. He brought me presents and said lovely things about me in this way that a father would dote on a treasured daughter.
I had no idea what was happening until my mom said something to me about it. “You need to be careful with D. He’d like to keep you.” Whether he had said this to her outright or if she could tell from how he interacted with me, I’m still not sure. But I know exactly how I felt when she said it to me, at that moment on the cusp of young adulthood: I wanted to be “kept”.
The reasons for this desire to be kept are deeply rooted in personal history that is too complicated to go into, but I do think that for vulnerable children (and frankly, what girl isn’t vulnerable during her tweens for one reason or another) this notion of being wanted, being craved is important to understand when looking into sexual coercion, power dynamics, and age disparity between partners.
(Spoilers for POINTE ahead)
Brandy Colbert’s absolutely excellent POINTE takes the issue of “consent” and dissects it to a deep and critical look at both power and age disparity in sexual relationships. What struck me so much with this book is the unflinching way in which Theo, the protagonist, holds on to the notion that she wanted to be in this relationship with an older guy, that she loved him, that he made her feel ALL the things as a young woman on the cusp of adulthood.
Only she wasn’t on the cusp of adulthood. She was thirteen. Thirteen to his eighteen (which later is revealed to be twenty-six). And he made her feel special and craved and wanted and really, from an older guy who you admire, it’s a gift. Because when you’re thirteen and pimply and awkward and nothing on your body feels right and you’ve been inundated with messages about the importance of boyfriends and being sexy, it means something when someone picks you. When someone desires you. When someone thinks you’re so spectacular that they’re willing to break rules for you. And all you have to do to keep this feeling going is break a few rules for them.
And it’s that head space that is captured so beautifully in POINTE. What makes a girl make this “choice” and what is the fall-out from the choice. Theo’s fall-out is indeed difficult to watch, particularly her inability to value herself enough to ask for more from Hosea. She accepts that this is what she’s worth, that all she deserves is furtive sex with a boy who already has a girlfriend, and it is heartbreaking to read. But so important to add to the conversation about sexual violence in YA literature.
Similar to THE GOSPEL OF WINTER, POINTE poses difficult questions about culpability, consent, love, and demonstrates the delicate nature of blind trust and how it can be manipulated by perpetrators to leave victims in a place of shame. Over and over Theo rationalizes her relationship with Chris/Trent and this is important to the dialogue about victim-blaming. Because often perpetrators are able to perpetuate silence in their victims by planting seeds of self-doubt and blame. The majority of sexual violence survivors I’ve spoken with over the years have all had at least one moment where they felt responsible for what happened to them. When it comes to victim-blaming, victims themselves are frequently the first people in line to say, “well, I did do XXX so…”
And perhaps the most important take-away from POINTE is our ability to discern that Theo was not at fault. That she had been used. That her thirteen-year-old vulnerability had been twisted into something terrible. That her feeling loved and wanted did not change the fact that what Chris/Trent did was rape. And that a good deal of sexual violence is perpetrated not through overt physical violence, but through coercion and manipulation, plucking at the very core of adolescent vulnerability.

POINTE releases on Thursday, April 10th from Penguin. ISBN: 9780399160349

Christa Desir is the author of Fault Line and the upcoming Bleed Like Me. She is also one of the co-moderators of the #SVYALit Project. She lives outside of Chicago with her awesome husband, Julio, and their three children. When she’s not writing, she is an editor of romance novels. Christa is also a feminist, former rape victim advocate, lover of coffee and chocolate, and head of the PTA. Visit her at www.christadesir.com.

Comments

  1. Great post about a great book <3

  2. I've really tried to not purchase so many books, but this review was the tipping point. Amazon One-Click here I come!

  3. Writing a request slip up for this now!

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