Review: SL,UT

slutReviewed by Janell

This book aims to cover a lot of topics — coming of age, coming of sexuality, slut shaming, growing up Mormon or not-Mormon in Utah, world travel — so it can’t nail all of them. But it’s an interesting effort.

SL,UT is a wink, wink abbreviation for Salt Lake (City), Utah. If you travel there, you can buy an SL,UT t-shirt or shot glass (ironic, because no one drinks in Utah, right?). Quick, name the top three things you know about Utah — Mormons, polygamy, and skiing, right? Maybe the 2002 Olympics for a bonus? I lived in SL,UT for the first thirty-one years of my life, and am a practiced ambassador/apologist. I read this book because it seems to be alone in its genre: a Utah book that isn’t written by or for the LDS Church (you know, the Mormons), isn’t the Jon Krakauer book about the history of polygamy, and isn’t written by a woman who escaped polygamy. That alone makes it groundbreaking, in my opinion.

This book isn’t a romance by the strict definition, because it’s not two people falling in love and living happily ever after. It follows three Salt Lake women, best friends, and it jumps back and forth in time while traveling from Salt Lake to China, France, and Italy.

Kyra was raised by her grandfather and her alcoholic mother. She takes care of herself, but also craves affection, so she ends up as a mistress to an older, rich, married French photographer. He convinces her by saying, “It does not make you a whore to allow your lover to take care of you so that you can take better care of him.”

Sarah had a stable LDS home and stands by her religion despite her many opportunities for pre-marital sex. She even dumps her fiancé when he pulls away from the Church. But then they reunite, even though he’s not spiritual. Although that could cause problems for her in the afterlife, Sarah realizes that, “I loved my husband more than some invisible idea of God scared me of death.”

Annabelle had rich, absentee parents. As a teenager she discovers the power of dressing to catch a man’s eye. She works on her PhD in Women’s Studies while she’s a morning radio DJ with outspoken feminist opinions, and on the weekends she’s a burlesque dancer. She has explored her sexuality more to perpetuate a sexually-adventurous illusion than because she really wanted to. At the end of the book, she just might be falling in love.

Annabelle, through her radio persona, gets to instruct her audience (and the reader) about female sexuality. She starts with a rant against the word “slut” being used by authority figures in political debate when so many other derogatory words about other classes have been classified as hate speech: “Nobody raises an eyebrow when someone uses hateful, venomous, violence-promoting language against a sexually self-aware girl.” Later, “If sex with a person makes you feel content, satisfied, and empowered, then it isn’t slutty. So there!” She is a great instructor and a proponent for women to take control of their sexuality.

The three narrators are tied together by their childhood friendship, along with their relationship with a neighborhood boy named Carick. Carick represents teenage love, the unobtainable, the could-have-been. He acts as a brother, avenging angel, and lover. Kyra and Annabelle especially define themselves by their relationships with him.

As I said earlier, this isn’t a standard romance. It does have quite a lot of sex, though, graphically bucking the Utah stereotype. I am a girl who loves the journey of two people falling in love, so in that respect I felt this book was spread too thin. Too many people having too many encounters, never knowing which relationship would stick until it was already stuck. But it works under the umbrella category of women’s fiction, if it has to be defined.

I have to mention a few of the Utah quirks that were covered. The guilt that overwhelms an upstanding Mormon boy when his hormones overtake him. The unmarried girls of twenty-one who fear a life of spinsterhood. How, “instead of bikini waxes, a good Mormon girl shows off her assets through cookies, party invitations, and thought-provoking spiritual lessons in Sunday school.” Don’t call the polygamists Mormons, or vice versa. The locations are spot-on, so much so that I was unnerved to discover one character living on the street that I grew up on. These mentions are stereotypes that the locals know, interesting nuggets to the outsiders.

Overall, this book was at times fun, preachy, and dramatic, just trying to cover too many bases. It’s a self-published work with some errors, mostly present/past tense mixups and dialogues that needed a few more speaker attributes to keep them straight. If you’d like some empowerment and exploration with your romance, or some Utah tourism, you should check it out.

Grade: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

SL,UT
by Alison Lee
Release Date: May 25, 2013

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