Minor spoilers ahead.
In spring 2021, I read Revenge of the Sluts by Natalie Walton (also titled Those Kinds of Girls in the UK and some other Commonwealth countries), a literary young adult (YA) fiction novel published by Wattpad Books. Wattpad as a whole fascinates me due to its claim to pick books to publish in-print, as well as monetize online based on its algorithm. Despite these claims, I have yet to see how the algorithm works in their decision to traditionally publish some books over others on their website. Some fantastically written works will never see publication due to the algorithm, but more popular and less craftily written works do because of their popularity. Then again, it seems to be a coin toss as to will-you or won’t-you be published. Regardless of that, I enjoyed Revenge of the Sluts, but I also wondered about its missed potential.
On the whole, it is a decent, well-written novel that is likely one of the first of its kind in YA literature as a feminist perspective on revenge porn, slut-shaming, and toxic masculinity in high school. By bringing in a journalistic angle in the main character Eden Jeong, the book’s structure was sound: Eden is covering the story for the school newspaper despite her and her peers being told not to by the school. When their school officials and the police won’t do anything, though, the students must take it into their own hands. This aspect of the story, as well as the compelling middle section of the story—when the pace of solving the mystery of “who sent the photos” picks up—made the book a satisfying read. I believe this is an important book that educators should have on their shelves in middle and high schools. The girls banding together in solidarity is also very moving in certain moments.
That said, I do believe that Revenge of the Sluts had a few missed opportunities. For one, the setting of the novel is a privileged private school in Massachusetts. For Eden and another student of color, some of the impacts of this environment are discussed, though not at great length. While this type of environment suits the trajectory of the story, I do wonder about what the consequences of illegally sending around girls’ nude photos for less-privileged or public-school-educated students would look like in literature. In addition, I felt there was still more room for more nuanced representation in the novel in regards to the affected girls, such as one of the affected girls not being cisgender and heterosexual, or otherwise. The pacing was quite slow in the beginning, picked up in the middle, and then fell flat toward the end before the culprit was revealed. Throughout the novel, many supporting and minor characters also are flat, so much so that at times I had trouble keeping track of who was who, especially when it came to the newspaper staff.
Overall, while I enjoyed the novel and do find it commendable, I also think that the author could have spent a bit more time fine-tuning the pacing and character interactions in the story. Still, as the first of its kind and having fairly good writing, I think it is an important addition to YA literature for its commentary on revenge porn and slut-shaming, specifically when it comes to adolescents entering high school or college.