Review: The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me
I am overjoyed to write this review of THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME, an absolute standout in a crowd of amazing books coming to you in 2019. If you only take one thing from this review, let it be this: This book is amazing. It captured me from the first page with the sheer brilliance of its voice, and then it kept me fully enthralled with a cast of characters that felt like family by the end of the novel. It is also one of the most refreshing, voice-driven, unique books you will read this year. You can’t afford to miss it, and here’s why:
Let’s start with the obvious. The thing that will draw you in after the glorious cover catches your eye: the concept. I won’t get into a breakdown of the plot, but in one line, this book is about a young woman (Lacey) who takes on her school’s abstinence-centric sex ed program and attempts to make it more informative to better serve the students at her school. It doesn’t shy away from asking the questions teens face on the subjects of sex, teen pregnancy, and other issues that often make adults uncomfortable. Lacey is the sex-positive feminist heroine many people have been waiting for. She grew up with every fact you could imagine and with an awareness of her body and its power/beauty thanks to her Labor and Delivery nurse mom. That aspect of the book was fun and fresh, but here’s the thing. This isn’t just a book for people who are on board with progressive sex education. It isn’t just for people who love reading sex-positive YA. This book is for anyone who loves a great story with incredible characters.
While the clever and unique premise of this book makes it stand out at first glance, at the end of the day, it’s the story and the characters that make it truly shine. Lacey and Theo. Evita and Alice. Janice and Charlie. I loved them all. They come alive in your hands. All their flaws and messy relationships and figuring out who they are at this most critical time of life. They felt like flesh and blood to me. Hinebaugh breathed them to life with her words. Their friendships felt genuine. Their struggles so honest. It took me back to my teenage years in a way that I don’t always feel when reading books about teens. Their dialogue is snappy and authentic and HILARIOUS. Hinebaugh’s gift for humor comes through in a big way here. Emotions run high, but then she makes you laugh out loud even in the middle of your tears.
This book is emotionally complex and authentic, but it also felt super realistic to me. One of the reasons for that is that the cast of characters wasn’t purely dominated by teens. There are actual adults present in this book. And those adults take an interest and active role in the story. I can’t stress enough how much I loved that the adults in this book stood up and made themselves known. They are right there in the mix, making decisions and mistakes and showing up, and generally, I wish there was more of this in YA.
Now for the fun part. The romance. This book will make you SWOON. Hinebaugh brings the fire in this novel, but she also excels at creating those tiny moments which can feel so monumental. There were countless scenes/ little exchanges where I had actual flashbacks to being young and in love for the first time. Hinebaugh absolutely nails the physical and emotional intensity of those moments. In short, the tension and chemistry are off the charts.
Beyond the romance and the characters, my favorite part of this story were the birth parts. Lacey’s passion for childbirth and supporting women in their pregnancy journeys comes through so strongly. I also loved how Hinebaugh gave us an example of teenage pregnancy in which that pregnancy becomes a source of actual joy. This book is a celebration of choice and information but it is also a celebration of the beauty of birth, and to see that in a YA book was really moving.
Last but not least, I wanted to touch on Hinebaugh’s writing style. It is absolutely dynamic. The voice in this book is flat-out brilliant. You will be hard pressed to find a more authentic, lovable voice than Lacey’s. And the secondary characters, such as Theo and Evita, also manage to assert themselves in a similar fashion even though we are never actually in their heads. By the end of the novel, I could have imagined entire conversations between them. That is the magic of Hinebaugh’s writing. It’s riveting, and hilarious, and so incredibly real.
To sum up, this book is one of a kind. It will have you feeling all the feelings, and laughing out loud to yourself, and asking yourself some questions maybe you never expected. I loved it more than I can say, and I know you will too.