Tomorrow’s a Long Time for Teen Lovers
Exposure: A Novel by Therese Fowler (Ballantine Books; $25.00; 384 pages)
Therese Fowler’s novel, Exposure, is the latest attempt to bring Romeo and Juliet to modern-day audiences. In it two seemingly well-adjusted teens, Anthony and Amelia, fall for each other with Amelia shielding the relationship from her controlling father, Harlan, a wealthy automobile dealer. The two attend a prep school in North Carolina where Anthony’s mother is an art teacher. The young lovers are theater enthusiasts who meet during a school performance and conceal their intimate relationship. They are hoping to head for the Big Apple after high school because Anthony aspires to attend NYU.
Anthony is described as an Adonis and Amelia as her father’s princess, on the cusp of womanhood and striving for her independence. Nothing is easy, of course, and complicating their dream of running off to New York is the fact that her father, a colossal snob, will only accept the “right” man for her daughter. That person is an equally well-bred snob, whom – in Harlan’s mind – Amelia will meet attending Duke University.
The relationship turns sexual soon enough and further complications ensue. While on a family vacation, Amelia requests that Anthony send her naked pictures of himself, and he obliges. Of course, Anthony is 18, and Amelia one year shy of “adulthood.” Soon thereafter, Harlan discovers the pictures on her computer, setting off a chain of events that nearly destroys everyone in the story – the survivors’ lives are forever altered.
Anthony’s mother has tacitly approved of the relationship, often recalling her youth. She eventually ends up trapped in the mire herself. Amelia’s mother, who probably could have prevented the unraveling, is incapable of standing up to her husband as Harlan self-righteously declares all-out war on the boy.
Fowler does well early on to intersperses character development with the plot. The story boldly tackles a contemporary issue – sexting. The legal and education systems are dumbfounded as to how to deal with this matter. Concurrently, teens seem ignorant of the magnitude and implications of their actions, while many parents appear relatively oblivious as to the extent of the problem.
Some might question how big of a deal sexting is in the first place, but this reviewer speculates that those people would quickly change their minds if compromising photographs of their 13-year-old daughter were circulating around school.
A minor critique is that the dialogue seems a bit forced at times. The rest of the storytelling is strong. Exposure is a worthwhile and relevant tale about the perils of growing up in a modern digital age where the standards of morality are ever changing. Well recommended.
Dave Moyer is a public school superintendent in the state of Wisconsin. A review copy was provided by the publisher. Exposure will be released on May 3, 2011. “Provocative, timely, and compelling…” Meg Waite Clayton