From the title alone, it’s easy to conclude that Muriel Avenue Sluts isn’t your average Young Adult novel. It revolves around Julia Turnbow, a 17 year old who can’t wait to join the ranks of the beautiful women on Muriel Avenue known as Sluts. The book tackles the issue of “slut-shaming” while also shining a light on sexual abuse. While I’m not certain the story will persuade anyone to evolve their stance towards the word “slut”, I do think there’s much to learn about the life of sex workers and the issues they face.
What I loved about this book was the writing style. It had such clear, conversational sentences that made it easy to read. The author also did a great job creating fleshed out characters that were memorable and relatable (though strangely, the main character was my least favorite). The murder happened early on, which left me wondering if the rest of the book would drag along with her trying not to be caught. The author avoided this by throwing Jules into more trouble via her link with Greta, but this choice also shifted the book from its initial examination of what it means to be a “slut”, and instead focused on teenagers suffering from sexual abuse. Both are relevant topics, but in going between the two, it left no time to delve into the complexities of each.
I also had an issue with how gullible Julia was. It was clear that Greta was trying to coax information from her, but Greta was apparently too beautiful and charismatic for her to stay away from. There’s a reveal later that might clue us in to the reason Julia is so drawn by her, but for me, even that reveal didn’t make up for why she went along with Greta’s whims.
Later in the novel, the police find evidence that ties Julia to the murder. She then decides to go on the run—to Florida—instead of talking to them. At this point, all the action and tension we’ve grown accustomed to, stop. In their place are a few dull chapters in which Julia surfs the internet, works in a diner, visits a college, and longs for the day when she can return home.
Which brings me to my final problem spot, the ending. I really don’t like when everyone lives happily ever after, and though not everyone actually lived, their situations weren’t resolved in a believable way. And yes, I know it’s fiction, but still…I don’t want to give too much away, but there are many things that could have boosted the ending such as a better resolution with Julia’s good friend Vivienne, or an actual dealing with the huge secret about her parentage.
Even with its problems, I’d recommend a read of Muriel Avenue Sluts and be willing to read other works by Maggie Hasbrouck. The story content might be a trigger for those who’ve suffered abuse, but for those who haven’t, it shows how abuse can twist the lives of those it touches and makes you wonder if you’d handle the situation in the same manner as Julia.
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