Summary: Harbouring a secret she’s afraid to even admit to herself, Dylan is struggling to push down the growing truth inside her. But when the opportunity arises in a creative display for the library to use books to define the body parts of male and female cut outs, her choices are revealing and land her in some trouble. Pressure builds as Dylan tries to hang on what she has, a kind and gentle boyfriend and a best friend she’s had since grade three, until a drunken kiss with a stranger makes her realise she can’t pretend anymore. Bit by bit, Dylan begins to live more authentically, acknowledging at last that she is attracted to girls, and finding the courage to be honest about her feelings with the important people in her life.
Number of Pages: 271
Age Range: 15-17
Review: I had more memorable quotes, but at some point it just becomes ridiculous. The ones I didn’t include were pretty much whole pages of text because I love the concepts in Goobie’s book. As a book enthusiast how could I not love the whole theme of picking books to depict body parts and ideas of gender?
I can’t even pick a favourite character because I like them all for different reasons. I enjoyed watching Dylan blossom into herself and taking ownership of her body. I loved Cam’s gentle, patient and thoughtful ways. Keelie’s spirit and energy and good-nature makes her scenes fun to read because she ends up being quite insightful for one so young. Ms. Fowler is intriguing, and I wanted to know more about her story to put her book choices in context. But I was not a huge fan of Joc. Even though she broke up with Dikker, I still think she’s a bit of a wild card and has the potential to really hurt Dylan in the future.
It’s a tricky book to write about because Beth Goobie’s writing is in your face for a lot of reasons. Her language choices with words like groin, dyke and fag. Depictions of female masturbation which is a rarer feature of teen fiction than girls getting their periods, and the fact that Goobie deals with bullying of others based on sexual preference or even speculation of perceived sexual preference. For those reasons, it’s an uncomfortable read.
But if you are able to sit with your discomfort, it’s a worthwhile read about claiming your whole body as an important part of who you are. Through Dylan’s experiences, Goobie explores the confusion of being a teen, lashing out at others to gain power, and trying to sort through all the subtle messages coming your way without being overwhelmed by them. Dylan thinks outside the box, and finds the strength to live authentically.
Goobie also provides a happy ending with a positive lesbian relationship. This is also a somewhat rare feature of teen fiction. I love it.
Interspersed throughout the story is a solid base of literary references. I haven’t read all of the books Goobie mentions, but after reading Hello, Groin, I definitely want to.
“One day last year, while I was shelving books in the fiction section, I stopped for a moment and stood, just looking at the shelf in front of me. The weirdest sensation came over me then – almost as if each book had a voice and they were all calling to me. I means, extremely bizarro, I know, but it happened. And as I was standing there, listening to that shelf of books call out to me, Ms. Fowler walked over and asked what I was doing.
‘One shelf of books has so many completely different ideas sitting right next to each other,’ I said slowly. I wouldn’t normally say something like that to a Dief teacher, but talking to Ms. Fowler was sort of like talking inside your own head. ‘It’s like looking at a row of minds,’ I continued, just letting the thoughts come out. ‘A story from Moose Jaw could be sitting next to one from Johannesburg. Every shelf in this library is like that. It’s fantastic.'” – Dylan talking to her high school librarian, Ms. Fowler from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
“So, someone besides Joc had finally noticed. It didn’t really surprise me that it was Keelie. She had a way of watching you so intensely that you felt as if her eyes were stuck to your soul. And like most little kids, she could spot a lie a long way off. When it comes to lying, little kids are different than adults. I mean, they haven’t lived long enough to learn the art of lying continually the way adults have. Sure, they come up with incredible whoppers sometimes, but only in a crisis, to save themselves from a time-out or an early bedtime. They don’t live a lit all the time like some grown-ups, plodding through each day resigned and defeated, all the while smiling tiredly and saying, ‘Oh, I’m good, great, fine. Everything’s okay.’ Happiness, there’s no happiness in them anywhere.” – Dylan from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
“‘We’re all like that, don’t you think?’ he said, rushing on. ‘Like Lancelot – stuff wrong inside us but still wanting to do miracles. That’s why I think you should put “The Once and Future King” over the guy’s dick. Because that’s where a guy lives, in his dick. It’s his kingdom. If he’s right or wrong in his heart and head, that’s where it’ll show up – in his dick. He’ll be a bad king or a servant-king there. Or a Lancelot, performing miracles.'” – Cam discussing the appropriateness of using The Once and Future King in Dylan’s book body display from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
“‘It’s like everyone thinks that what goes on between a teenager’s legs is dirty,’ I said, letting the words out in a rush. ‘I mean, whether you’re having sex with someone or not. That part of your body is automatically indecent because you’re a teenager, and everyone just assumes teenagers are wild and on the edge of losing control at every moment. You’re never allowed to just live in that part of your body. It’s a forbidden zone, a place you’re never supposed to think about, and adults are always lecturing you about saving sex for marriage, or STDs and how they can shrivel your brain to a peanut. And the whole time you know half of them were having unsafe sex in the back of a car when they were teenagers. Anyway, why does that part of your body have to be treated like a wild animal that should be caged and controlled? Why can’t it be about decency and honor and what’s true and good?
‘And wise,’ I added defiantly, crossing my arms over my chest.” – Dylan from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
“I shrugged again. ‘You have to read the book,’ I said. ‘It’s awesome, it made me feel like I could do things, be someone important. I mean, those girls thought for themselves and did what they thought was right. What does it matter if they were dykes or straights? Why does that matter?'” – Dylan talking about Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
“‘Our whole body is our heart and mind, maybe even our soul. So I think our heart and soul and mind live in our groin, just like anywhere else. And we need to make that part of us be about truth and respect and love, just like our heart.'” – Dylan from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
“Again his eyes flicked across mine and I saw the pain in them, but more than that – a kind of giving. In the middle of how incredibly difficult this was for him, I could feel him sitting there and telling himself that he could do this – he could reach into the strength of this moment and give in to himself and to me.” – Dylan observing Cam from Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie
Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie, is published by Orca Book Publishers, (2006).