One of my favorite books last year was Radhika Sanghani’s debut novel, Virgin, the tale of twenty-one-year-old university student, Ellie Kolstakis, and her mission to lose her virginity. Sanghani and Ellie are back in the upcoming sequel, Not That Easy and it is just as honest, hilarious, and heart-felt as Virgin was.
Having graduated from Uni, Ellie and some friends have found a flat to share in London. Ellie finds she’s less thrilled with the realities of her unpaid internship at London Mag where she finds herself fetching lattés and handing off the grunt-work research for articles rather than writing them herself. And despite having lost her virginity, she still feels like she’s leagues behind her friends who have been having casual sex for years. Tired of her complaining, her friends suggest she try her hand at internet dating. Game for anything that might finally get her laid again, Ellie agrees and when her boss catches her checking her profile at work, Ellie gets an added incentive for pursuing internet dating: her boss wants her to write a weekly column about her internet dating misadventures. But how long will it take for things to fall apart on Ellie? Apparently, not long.
Just as graphic in its language and depictions of sex as its predecessor, Not That Easy puts the question of female sexuality and hypocrisy front and center as Ellie begins heading out on her internet dates. She finds it’s quite difficult to follow through on her feminist ideals while negotiating a dating world that is still quite sexist in nature. In writing her column, she sees in the reactions to it is that not everyone is as welcoming of women being open about their sexuality—least of all her traditional Greek mother and the men from her internet dates that end in disaster. While she knows she shouldn’t be ashamed of her sexuality and doesn’t want to be, shame and self-consciousness have been so instilled into her by society, it’s putting a serious damper on her ability to enjoy the sex she’s finally having. As the plot advances, the rules of dating grow increasingly blurry as several characters struggle with projecting their interpretations onto situations rather than looking at them from the other person’s perspective.
Not That Easy goes far beyond the emotional depth of Virgin when it comes to Ellie’s romantic relationships and the fall-out from them. Her female friendships are what Ellie draws her strength from so when her actions—coupled with unfortunate circumstances in the lives of her girlfriends, specifically her roommate Emma—threaten the integrity of those friendships, Ellie’s emotional spiraling takes her downward. While Virgin was very much directed inward, Not That Easy looks outward a bit more, at the way that while we need to take care of ourselves, there is a point where it crosses from self-love into selfish.
Communication and the need for clarity and honesty, with ourselves and our partners—be they romantic, strictly friendly, familial, even professional—are what Ellie ultimately learns through her humorous and embarrassing escapades. I can only imagine what might happen to Ellie next if Sanghani decides to continue her series.
Not That Easy will be available for purchase on November 3, 2015.