Book Title: The Temptation of Adam (Standalone) Author: Dave Connis Number of pages: 224
Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.
But Adam is fine.
When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice.
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Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– YA fiction about porn addiction. C’mon now.
– Tackles various issues: addictions (sex/porn, substance use, etc.), sexual assault, divorced households, race relations
– Setting feels very normal (in a good way) and isn’t overly flourished
– Both character-and-plot driven; pacing is slow early on but picks up midway through
Plot aside, Nic Stone was the catalyst for me in reading this…
…I also apologize for this gratuitously long review and Q&A.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Temptation of Adam from Thomas Allen & Son.
Here’s what I was sold on: pornography addiction from the teenage experience.
There’s often discourse that sex, masturbation, porn, etc. is not often engaged at a deeper level from any spectrum of the YA umbrella for whatever reason (I don’t have an answer for this). And if it is, it’s typically assumed or under the page; which honestly makes me question its relevance if it’s not canon. The discussions of porn and sexual intimacy is an encompassing topic that ought to be tackled more often than leaving it at “the kiss” — the end. So I was ecstatic that Dave Connis decided to tackle this thing (be it a pastime, culture, or addiction) as candidly as he did in The Temptation of Adam.
While the porn aspect was not as forthcoming as I had hoped it would be, the story does continuously regard the addiction(s) to be an itch that required scratching. That’s great. The psychology of addictive behaviour is present. I guess I was just hoping to see more of a representation of the process behind how this niche addiction cultivated itself leading into the curation of porn being a normalized event in Adam’s life.
Of course, to be fair, the struggle and realization of this addiction, and Adam’s eventual healing, is the main focus of this story…but for the book to be propelled off of such a topic, the groundwork to fully grasp the addiction lacked a bit of footing.
I’m definitely not saying I needed to know Adam’s kinks but rather for the story to extend the thought of “here is Adam curating [another] porn playlist” to consider “why does he curate these lists/specific multimedia, how does he select them, who does it do it for?” (notwithstanding potential masturbation discussions, but that’s another matter). Is this an uncomfortable topic? Absolutely, but the whole sex thing is a part of life and the nuances of this temptation could have been explored more transparently.
It could have been at the mercy of edits and/or the content being too mature for audiences though. I’ll never know…
The expectation I had going into Temptation was that the story could revolve around addiction meetings (see: sitting in circles and talking through all the feels) — which does occur — but the pivotal moments of growth happens outside of it be it at Adam’s home, Mr. Cratcher’s home (a mentor-ish figure), or on the road during the road trip. It’s these three spots that held the most importance in how Connis chose to spend time re: description. (On the record: I was surprised that there was a road-trip story line. However, the road-trip plot line is arguably the strongest in terms asking those tough questions and challenging those revelations.)
But best of all, the “world building” (for a lack of a better term) is not overly frivolous. It just is; plain, unassuming, and what you’d expect from the everyday. This avenue might not be for some as it doesn’t add something “new” but I would just say: should it?
The pacing of Temptation is a bit jarring. In the beginning, I felt as though I was walking through mud. In the latter half, when they go on their road trip, I was flippin’ through the pages easy peasy. Perhaps it comes with needing to build the groundwork for the “a-ha!” moments to mean something…but slow is still slow.
The biggest surprise in this book is how much music plays an indirect yet important role to the plot; best demonstrated by how Temptation weaves in and out of being both a character-and-plot driven story. If you’re familiar with The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, there’s as much inclusion in music in this story as there was for TSK. It’s smart, actually. It gives the addiction a vehicle to push dialogue and plot to happen rather than just having Adam wear a “Hello My Name Is ______” nametag every chapter.
There’s some stylistic choices in voice that just wasn’t my cup of tea. They also call each other a lot and send limited texts; which, okay…I guess that’s still a thing. There’s also this underlying Lord of the Rings Gollum bit that was his brain and anxiety trashing on Adam — but, think it could have been better shown than having told.
This is also all on me, but I’m not the biggest advocate of withholding information especially from a first-person POV. There’s this mystery element in plotting that reinforces why Adam is where he is in his life. But he thinks quite a bit about The Incident that led to his suspension from school. I understand why it was written like that but I’m still not a fan of its use as it can detract from the intimacy of the POV to really feel for Adam and the circumstance that he’s enduring.
I enjoyed the nods to various topics without making a scene out of it (e.g. boys not being able to cry, sexual assault, addiction, race issues in America.) They aren’t expanded upon, but they’re present in passing which helps in building Adam’s perspective of his world.
Every character brought something different to the story; and rightfully so as they all live through different vices. So while I wasn’t completely sold on Dez’ manic pixie dreamgirl personality (and as a main point of contention re: romance), she was definitely an intriguing character to balance out the wholesome normal-ness of Adam Hawthorne.
Full transparency: Adam reads like an average schmuck with a great sense of self-awareness. (So, basically, almost every teen who overestimates themselves). But like the world where Temptation is set, there’s this benefit to having almost a stock character be the lead to this story (or any story). Could Adam have fallen into the pitfalls of being unmemorable? Sure, but I think for the topic of addictions and how it’s socially presented, you almost need someone like Adam — an individual who’s just trying to figure out his own shit — to be that shell for the reader to experience empathy and what the story is trying to convey.
Because the takeaway, for me, is that everyone has temptations. It’s who we are and how we live: to go through life mitigating pain with pleasure. So even if it seems like we’re in the wrong or different in spite of these temptations, and even if these addictions become our labels, the truth is that these vices make us who we are and even broken things can still lead whole lives. This might be a common message in coming-of-age stories, but its one that never seems to dull.
Also: Mr. Cratcher is a great mentor with even better quotable lines.
Dave Connis has brought a necessary read for YA audiences in The Temptation of Adam. If not for the topic itself, then for it’s self-awareness to the coming of age experience in showcasing the painful and joyous truth of being human.
Author Q&A + Giveaway!
Dave Connis has held all manner of job, from ballroom dance instructor to construction worker. He is now a community manager at Code Corps, a platform where people can donate time, talent, and money to projects for social change. He also works as an assistant youth director at his church, Rock Creek Fellowship. He has a bachelor’s in community development with a focus on international economics from Covenant College. He is a member of the SCBWI. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife and son. Follow Dave: Website - Twitter - Facebook - Instagram - Goodreads
1) As music plays an important role in the process of healing for Adam, what is your go-to process of using music to “heal”? Do you simply jam out to covers? Pick a chord and start creating? A bit of both?
Music is a mood thing for me. I’ve never really been a “work out playlist” or “get pumped up” playlist sort of person. My mood is typically in search of things that resemble the season of fall or, at times, the summer. I always want to feel the calm and warmth of fall or the carefree and rambunctiousness of summer. So, those feelings typically define what I listen too/ write. Creating music differs from song to song. Sometimes I’ll wake up with a melody in my head. Sometimes I’ll write words first. Other times I write music first. Songwriting has no rhyme or reason for me.
2) There’s mention of the famous Abbey Road Studios — have you been there before and/or have any stories to tell of your experiences at the studio? If you could record one song there, what would it be?
I haven’t! I’ve never been to any part of Europe. If I could record a song there it’d be one that broke onto a Spotify curated playlist. Whatever one that’d be.
3) Why porn addiction, specifically in YA?
First: Because there is nothing about it in YA. As far as my knowledge goes, and I’ve looked a good bit, TOA is the first YA book that deals with the topic.
Second: Because I’ve had some people tell me it’s not a thing. The thing is, right now, as I type, I literally know people/kids addicted. If I play devil’s advocate and say porn addiction isn’t a thing, we’re still left with questions like what does porn say about how we view sex? What does a lot of porn use do the the brain? What does the act of watching different porn videos over and over and over teach us? Everything that makes up culture says something about us. According to a report from PornHub, the biggest porn site on the internet, 4.6 billion hours of porn were watched in 2016, and the US was #1 in the top traffic countries. There are 7.6 billion people in the word. That’s almost as much hours of porn watched as the global population. Hours. Not minutes. Hours. This is a massive part of our global culture yet there isn’t anything telling the YA crowd to pause and consider how/why/what happens when you consume it.
4) What was your process of research for writing Temptation of Adam and why was Adam’s story the one you felt most compelled to tell?
I researched the science of addiction (all types) for about three months leading up to even writing the first word TOA. I’m definitely not an expert. Three months of research is pale in comparison to counselors and psychologists that do it for a living, so I had professionals read through the book to tell me where and what I was getting wrong because I desperately didn’t want to mess this up.
I wish I had the answer to the second question, but Adam just demanded to be written. He suddenly existed and needed to have his story told. I wish all characters were as simple as he was.
The winner will receive:
– 1 finished copy of The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis
– 1 digital copy of Dave’s companion album, Looking for Eden
– 2 mini journals courtesy of Sky Pony Press
– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends on November 9th at 12:00AM EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize
Direct Link: http://ow.ly/98em30g4fIB
Temptation of Adam – Blog Tour Playlist!
Part of this blog tour involved curating a Temptation of Adam playlist (of which I had no idea what I was doing). So behold! Music for you to get a sense of how I experienced Adam and Dez’ journey of addiction and self-discovery!
(I have no idea if you’re able to listen to the full songs…so good luck!)
Link to: Temptation of Adam – Book Playlist!