Doing It - Melvin Burgess + Writer Event

Title: Doing It

Author: Melvin Burgess

Publisher: Penguin
Category: YA
Release Date: 2003
Source: Bought it during an author event + book signing
Paperback : 330 pages

Dino really fancies fit, sexy Jackie, but she just won't give him what he wants ; Jonathan likes Deborah, but she's a bit fat, what will his mates say? ; Ben's been secretly shagging his teacher for ages. He used to love it, but what if he wants to stop? 

Three lads discovering sex for the first time. But do any of them really know what they're doing?


First of all, I am deeply sorry for having made myself scarce on the blogosphere this past week, work has been crazy! To be forgiven (hopefully), I will be writing today about a very special UK author that I had the opportunity to discover in a conference and whom you should totally check out if you don't already know him!!

So last Saturday, the ever-lovely Becky @ The Bookette kindly invited me to a Melvin Burgess event with Jo @ Once Upon a Bookcase and Ink and Paper and Non from Catnip Publishing
For a complete summary of the event, check out Becky's article since she took plenty notes and pictures !

I had never heard of Melvin Burgess before (how rude of me, I know) and I discovered this author's unique perspective on YA literature at the conference. I - obviously - immediately wanted to read one of his books and I was advised this one.

Doing It is one of the most interesting YA book I have read in my entire life. It is hilarious, incredibly well written and disturbingly accurate (oh yes, I'm looking at you boys).

First, the book is told from the point of view of three male teenagers (lethal combination if you ask me) or where looking in the brain of a boy is definitely less attractive than looking at their sixpack
Second, the book is about relationships seen from the point of view of these same three or where you realise that boys hardly think beyond their "knob" (as if you needed a confirmation of some sort)
Third, the book is a combination of first person point of view of different characters and third person narrator or where you see a situation from all the angles, just in case you weren't horrified enough. No I'm kidding, I love the multiple narrators, it is unsettling at first but definitely brilliant!

It is frankly quite horrifying to be in their heads, seriously, you find yourself reading about knob problems, needing to have sex, double-timing your girlfriend because she doesn't want to have sex, not wanting to go out with the girl of your dream because she is fat and being conscious of the need to look as cool as the other boys.

And you thought women problems were worse....
As said on the cover of the book, this book will
a) make you a feminist
b) make you look at your father, brother and fellow (male) classmates with brand new eyes
c) put you off boys until you're 30 and they (hopefully) matured
d) make you weep for the future of humanity

Who's sexist?

It is very interesting the type of peer-pressure boys encounter during their teenage years in opposition to women. It is nice to be in boys' heads and see what there is - if something there is. Teenage years are a very tough period for everyone, it is the time where you more or less find out who you are and who you would like to become. 
It was interesting to hear Melvin Burgess talk about his own teenage years and the fact that at one point he decided to be a writer, but more specifically, what kind of writer and person he wanted to be. I like how people, and writers in particular, develop a certain philosophy of life, and you can see some hints of it scattered in all their books. His three characters go through a period of doubt, may it be from their love life or their family issues, and they start taking decisions that will probably influence their life in the future. I really liked how you are witnessing those three boys at breaking points in their lives where somehow they'll grow up (not to be adults exactly, but to progressively leave their childhood). 

Or maybe I'm being a girl over-analysing the whole thing. 

Unlike many YA books written by adults, Melvin Burgess writes credible teenage dialogues. Though there are other narrators (including girls), the story follows three clueless morons best friends during their hormone-fueled teenage years.

One character is Dino, the hot confident guy everyone loves and respects. But he is in love with one girl who doesn't want to give him what he wants (as in sex). He is also in the middle of a family crisis and despite what he thinks, it has a real effect on his modjo (yes, I must have watched Austin Powers way too many times)

Then there is Ben who is a nice respectful teen. He is well liked by everyone because of his personality and he is best friends with Dino and Jonathan. But Ben has a secret: he has been with his teacher for as long as he can remember and he misses the teenage experience. I found his story very interesting because it takes the theme of "taking advantage of" to a whole new level with it being an older woman (25 years old) with a young boy. No matter how Ben might think himself "lucky to have sex with a girl who knows what she is doing", he is still being taken advantage of and I find it interesting how he deals with it in the end.

The last one is Jonathan. Jonathan is the funny guy always cracking joke. He is also the weird guy who thinks about horrible things all the time and strongly believes he has a secret ailment that will make him die soon in atrocious circumstances *sigh*. I have to admit that each time Jonathan is narrating I am laughing out loud. He has such a male a weird conception of things relating to sex, sexual organs and other things that he develops very urm... "personal" beliefs. You actually should only read the book for him. 

One thing for sure, no matter how cool they want to play it, these boys are very obviously clueless and vulnerable. 

I find all the characters very well described and extremely believable. This is one thing I love about Melvin Burgess, after I heard him talk about it. He describes teenagers as they are and not how they should be. His teenagers are mainly clueless about plenty things, they hang out and don't do anything else, some smoke, have sex, take drugs and say/do very stupid things. They are not adults in disguise or pinnacles of virtue. They are the result of some genetic stuff and an education gained at home and in schools. Nothing more.

This is another aspect of Melvin Burgess that I really enjoy, it is his ability not to shy away from difficult subjects. He is not writing to tell teenagers to have sex early or to take drugs. He is writing about teenagers who do and what happens to them. Because, as sad as it might be, quite a lot of teenagers do use drugs and have sex starting at a relatively young age.
As he said during the conference, when he read books for younger readers, he thought that they were very far from the truth and that's why he decided, in part, to become a writer and write about those issues in particular, which are often overlooked or written in quite a moralistic manner.

Anyways, this is a must read since a book in a boy point of view, with a brilliant writing and which is going to make you laugh out loud so many times is a rare sweet little thing to treasure (I'm obviously talking about the book here). And I will be checking out all other Melvin Burgess books!

For pictures and a complete summary of the event (which is waaaay less confusing than what I just wrote!), please visit Becky @ The Bookette's post (here) !!!


  1. Great review, Caroline! I think Melvin Burgess is one of the UK's best authors. His books aere really amazing.

  2. This book sounds super interesting so I'm defiantly going to have to buy it. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  3. I'm really wanting to get my hands on a copy of this book. I was telling my fellow YA librarians about it and we all decided it was a must for our collection. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. @Sophie: He totally is!! I think I will read Junk next or Sara's face !

    @Morgan: You definitely should buy it (or take at your library!), it is sooo funny!

    @Megan: I think it definitely is a must since it is so unique in its style of writing and the subject it tackles! I'm glad I enjoyed it too :-D

  5. I know I have said this before Caroline, but you are adorable. I LOVE this review. It is hilarious. I am laughing my head off here. I am dfinitely going to have to read this. I am totally intrigued as to what goes on in the mind of the male gender. Although it does sound like the truth is a little disturbing...

    Great review!

  6. Your reviews are fantastic! I absolutely loved reading this. Thank you!