Wetlands and Wrecked : Book Review

Over break, I finished Wetlands (about a mother named Elizabeth and her family, therapy, and sex life) and Wrecked (about a teen named Helen in the hospital, about sex, hygiene, and family), both by German author Charlotte Roche. While Wetlands become a best seller in 2008, the reviews are mixed, and the book itself is controversial. At best, it's been described as fuel for a sexual revolution, while harsher critics have dismissed it as disturbing and lightly veiled pornography.

These books made me flinch. I'll admit it. I had to repeatedly put them down and take a break. I felt disgusted. And I loved them. They're meant to disgust. As open as I consider myself to be, I still judge. In Wrecked, the protagonist Helen describes how she jump starts the growth of avocado pits by pushing them in her vagina and smears smegma behind her ears to smell more "natural". Did you just flinch a little? Me too.

However, she also addresses more relevant, though still finch-worthy issues, and that's what makes this book important. When she wakes in the hospital wearing a paper gown, she notices that  her clothes have been folded neatly beside her, her panties on top, the crotch slightly damp, and wonders how the nurse reacted to her discharge. Public school sex ed taught me that discharge was unnatural, a sure sign of an STI. And that's why I was convinced for a week in middle school I had gonnorhea.

In my experience, girls don't often (read: ever) talk about their discharge with others. But Helen does. She talks frankly, openly, repulsively, about what her body can do, what she does with her body, and what she does to other bodies. There were more than a few moments I let out a sigh of relief I didn't know I had been holding, "Oh, wow, so at least one other person has experienced that too."

Both protagonists are whiny, gross, offensive. Though they're meant to come off as multi-facested and complicated, they often fall short and end up inconsistent. But, more often than not, they're right.

These books are important. They challenge the deep-seated embarrassments about basic biology, and propose a much more realistic picture. This is the way we should be thinking. Maybe not, you know, the avocado pit or smegma perfume part, but the idea that women aren't hairless, douched, and sanitized. That's the type of thinking I can get behind. 

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