Little 15

I have gotten so excited about writing that I’ve been reading about four books at once, which means that it is taking me a lot longer than usual to get through each one. I finally finished one last night: Little 15, by Stephanie Saye. Warning: The topic of this book might be a little difficult for some people, and is not for young children, since the book is written in first person by a young woman who had an affair with her basketball coach when she was only fifteen.

This topic, however, has become sadly familiar to all of us, through well-publicized cases in the media. Usually, the youngster is portrayed as an innocent victim by the press; Stephanie Saye‘s twist is that the young girl, Lauren, falls for her coach. This might seem implausible to some, but not to me. I remember all too well the way some of the boys at my Junior High talked about our beautiful typing teacher, and some of the girls in high school fantasized about some of the younger, more handsome, male teachers. Lauren’s horrible father, her distant relationship with her mother, and her lack of friends make her the perfect victim for a man who can easily tell that she’s unlikely to squeal on him.

The story is beautifully told, as if we are having a conversation with Lauren, who is confiding her biggest darkest secret. This first person technique is unusual, but it really works here. She tells us about her best (and only) friend, and how they drift apart when Lauren is moved to a new school in order to play basketball under the best coach in the state. She complains to us about her father’s obsession with her on-the-court skills, the way he treats her mother, her sister’s scorn, and her new school. She draws us into her mind and her story. The destruction of her innocence and eventual train wreck are foreshadowed from the beginning, yet enough details are left out that you don’t know how it will really end until you get there.

While this novel drew me along, I had to put it down in a few places, because the material hit close to home. Many years ago, I found out that my junior school band director had had a sexual relationship with at least one of the girls I went to school with (from a newspaper article, I gather she is two years younger than me). In her case, they first had sex when she was 13 and continued for several years. Even though she apparently eventually told her mother, he was not prosecuted; only asked to resign.

Sveio School band at the Norwegian Championshi...

Eventually, he repeated the pattern with another young girl and went to jail. I have played out in my imagination how it might have happened, and what it did to those poor kids and their ability to cope with life as they grew into adults. My imagination may be too vivid, but I just can’t help but think that I could have been one of them if my parents hadn’t been so involved in my life.

At an age when I just started to wonder about boys, and consider that they might not have cooties, these girls, like Lauren were already seduced by a middle-aged man. Doesn’t that blow your mind? I do not know who they were, and I do not know why he picked them. Did they adore him the way Lauren adores her coach? That newspaper article indicated that the first girl did adore my music teacher (ugh! yuck, Yuck! I can’t even imagine this. To me he seemed so old and any guy more than a year older than me held no romantic possibility).

Have any of you been touched by a scandal like this? What do you think of it? Do you remember your teenage years and how you saw your teachers?

This is a novel which will make you see the world differently. But don’t take my word: here are a few other reviews of this wonderful novel, at Good Reads: Little 15

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  1. #1 by Stephanie Saye on February 28, 2012 - 4:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Stephanie Saye and commented:
    A Thought-Provoking Review of LITTLE 15 by Blogger Ann Stanley

  2. #2 by Stephanie Saye on February 28, 2012 - 3:19 pm

    Ann, when I saw your post this morning, I was delighted. Not only because you enjoyed my novel so much that you took time to write about in your blog, but also because it moved you in a way that I had hoped it would for all readers. That is, to raise awareness of improper teacher-student relationships and the damage that they can cause.

    Like your school, things like this went on at mine, too, though I didn’t find out about them until years after graduation. In one instance, my track coach, who was considered by many to be a decent and caring man, had made sexual advances on one of my teammates. Thankfully, my teammate was disgusted and told her mother. The advances stopped, but the guy was never turned in and continued coaching at my school (a prestigious Catholic all-girls high school) for years thereafter. I often wonder how many other girls there were that he made advances on.

    Sadly, that was just one example. Apparently some of the other Catholic high schools in the area where I grew up had their own problems with this, too, but most of the cases went unexposed. But it’s not just a Catholic thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a public or private school, a girl or a boy, black or white – this sort of thing happens without prejudice.

    So being a glutton for controversy, I casually started tracking these types of cased in the news – and I couldn’t believe how many of these situations happen all over the country. That’s about when the character of Lauren started forming in my mind. What if the victim told her side of the story? As a novelist, I challenged myself to create a believable situation that would leave a teen vulnerable for this type of abuse. I thought about what her parent’s might be like – would they be involved in her life? Probably not. Would she have a lot of friends? My character didn’t, but I’m sure this sort of thing has happened to kids who are popular in school, too. Popular or not, I guessed that once an affair began, the teen would withdraw from her inner circles and become obsessed with the relationship, similar to having a “first love.” And thus, my “dark tale of first love” was born.

    Ann, thank you again for reading my novel – and featuring it in your blog. I’m enjoying your posts and I look forward to more. Blessings!

    • #3 by annstanleywriting on February 28, 2012 - 3:29 pm

      Thanks, Stephanie, for adding more to this discussion. I don’t feel comfortable linking to the two newspaper articles I found on line about my former teacher, but the older woman’s story paralleled your account in at least a few of the details. One article does mention that she has blamed some psychological difficulties as an adult on her illicit relationship.

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