Book Reviews: Confessions of a Wild Child, Don't Be So Gay
Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez

Confessions of a Wild Child by Jackie Collins
St. Martin’s Press, $26.99, 294 pages
Oh, the things you got away with when you were a teen!
Cutting classes and hanging out in the school parking lot. Sneaking out of the house when your parents thought you were asleep, parties when they weren’t home, “borrowing” their car, busting curfew—stupid stuff you hope your kids never do.
You got away with a lot. It’s a good thing your mother never knew.
Then again, as you’ll see in Confessions of a Wild Child by Jackie Collins, she probably did the same things when she was a kid.
Almost-15-year-old Lucky Santangelo was tired of being in prison.
Ever since her mother was murdered 10 years prior, Lucky’s father, Gino, kept Lucky and her brother, Dario, locked in their posh Bel Air mansion. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere unchaperoned, though Lucky was good at sneaking out. Outwitting Gino was fun—until the day he informed her that she was being shipped to a “very expensive” boarding school in Switzerland.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. Eager to find out about boys and sex, Lucky and her boarding school roommate escaped every night, biked into town, drank and played a game Lucky called “Almost.” It was a fun, empowering game in which she “almost” lost her virginity to several local boys.
Kicked out of the Swiss school for “Almost,” Lucky was sent to a different school in Connecticut, but she didn’t stay long—her former roomie, a Greek heiress named Olivia, invited Lucky to the south of France. It was easy to get there. It was even easier to forget to tell Gino where she was.
Caught once again, Lucky was dragged to Las Vegas, where Gino told her that he’d figured out how to tame her. As much as she wanted to walk in her father’s footsteps and go into business, Lucky wasn’t destined to run the Santangelo Empire. No, that would be Dario’s future. For Lucky, marriage and babies were inevitable.
And Gino Santangelo believed that was that.
But if he thought he had a wild child before, he hadn’t seen anything yet.
Every once in awhile, I get in the mood for a good trashy novel and, really, you can’t beat a book by author Jackie Collins. You can’t. Still, there are bumps and bruises inside Confessions of a Wild Child.
It’s often hard, first of all, for an adult to write in the voice of a young teenager, and the first few pages of this book reflect it—Lucky sounds like a middle-aged woman. That bump passes quickly but occasionally returns; there are also light continuity errors in here, and some preening repetition. Turn up the heat, though, and you’ve got a story that has its flaws but is, overall, a delightfully guilty pleasure. 
Though Lucky is a teenager in this book, this is an escapist-novel for adults. If you’re looking, in fact, for something to take on that mid-winter vacation, Confessions of a Wild Child is a great book to get away with. 

Don’t Be So Gay! by Donn Short
University of British Columbia Press, $32.95, 289 pages
You really didn’t want to talk about it.
Sometimes, you thought it might even be a rite of passage—everybody endures name-calling, right? Everybody’s bullied at some time or other.
You didn’t want to talk about it, but you always wondered if you should’ve. Is keeping quiet better—or, as you’ll see in Don’t Be So Gay! by Donn Short, are there better ways to stop bullying?
For about the last 35 years, schools and institutions have been focused on ridding their halls of bullying; more recently, the issue of sexuality has come into the conversation. Of the anti-bullying programs he’s studied, Donn Short says that Toronto ’s is one of the best in helping promote the safety of gay teens.
But how truly effective is the Safe Schools Act? Over the course of three months, Short interviewed gay students, advocates, and teens who “did not identify as queer but who were, nonetheless, subject to homophobic harassment by their peers” to find out. Interviewees came from several schools in the Toronto area; some were teachers.
Many of those teachers didn’t think the policies were working. Students, Short notes, still used negative epithets; one teacher spent considerable time scolding students for it. He also learned that teachers felt “surrounded by homophobic colleagues.”
Interestingly enough, though the policies instituted in the Safe Schools Act were meant to ensure safety of LGBTQ students, those students didn’t seem impressed. They were often “more familiar with safe-school and equity policies than most other students” and knew when something wasn’t working. Many had experienced homophobia from teachers. One young man who wasn’t gay, but was bullied as if he was, sued.
Overall, LGBTQ students strongly suggested that anti-bullying policies would work better if administrators talked with the students they were trying to protect, to ferret out the system’s flaws. Students also believed that bullying would stop if the “entire” culture were changed, along with attitudes of homosexuality and the ubiquitousness of heternormativity.
But “[i]t’s too late for my generation,” says one teen. “We need to be working on the kids in kindergarten.”
There’s a lot of good in Don’t Be So Gay!—and a lot otherwise.
First, the otherwise: though author Donn Short mentions anti-bullying policies in other countries, his admitted focus is on a few schools in Toronto which, though the range of interviewees is wide, narrowed the information here; it didn’t help that he wanders off-topic quite often, into racial issues rather than the subject at hand.  Furthermore, casual readers may find the info more academic than not.
To the good, Short spent considerable time with the teens he interviewed, which allowed him to get unabashed answers to his questions. That kind of honesty—and the well-considered thoughts from LGBTQ teens—is what makes this book worthwhile.
This is by no means a front-of-the-fireplace book. It’s going to take some digging to get the nuggets of info you’ll need from it. But if you’re concerned about what’s going on in your local schools, Don’t Be So Gay! might spark some talking.

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