Apparently, you don't need to strand teenagers on a desert island to re-create the primal horrors we all remember unfolding in Lord of the Flies. In their first book, Restless Virgins: Love, Sex, and Survival at a New England Prep School (Morrow), Abigail Jones and Marissa Miley conduct an exhaustive series of interviews with students about life at the elite Milton Academy in an attempt to understand the sex scandal that rocked the school in 2005. What they discover—the power plays, harassment, and all-consuming pressure to be "the best"—is not exactly news, but as they chip away at the pervasive climate of unrelenting promiscuity and out-of-control partying, it is clear that something is very wrong in the life of contemporary teens. Milton is a provocative petri dish for Jones and Miley to have chosen. Founded in 1798, its alum include T.S. Eliot and Robert Kennedy as well as Jones and Miley themselves. When scandalous accounts of the sexual practices of the current generation of students culminated in the expulsion and subsequent charges of statutory rape against five "hockey gods" who had oral sex with a 15-year-old girl, the authors committed themselves to finding out what was going on. Over two years, they conducted hundreds of interviews with students, as well as teachers and parents, before ultimately focusing on the interlinked stories of seven girls and boys to reveal the casual hookups, off-campus binges, and sheer desperation to be popular (equated with "sexually desirable" by all of them) that define life for these kids. Shortly before graduation, having lived through the ups and downs of college admissions and the glare of negative press attention, they slowly back away from the drinking, drugging, and "liberation" that feels more like abuse, and reach for a truer sense of how they want to treat others and be treated themselves. But, as Jones and Miley expertly document, today's teens have come a long way from simply worrying about a date for the prom.
— Elaina Richardson
Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, December 8, 2013