Study Guide

Hush, Hush Sex

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I walked into biology and my jaw fell open. Mysteriously adhered to the chalkboard was a Barbie doll, with Ken at her side. They'd been forced to link arms and were naked except for artificial leaves placed in a few choice locations. Scribbled above their heads in thick pink chalk was the invitation:


Boom, welcome to this book. The bio teacher is setting his class up for the scientific study of human reproduction, but starting the book of this way also sets readers up to know that sex is most definitely in the mix.

'Why, Vee,' I said. 'I could've sworn you've been looking forward to this unit all semester.'

Vee lowered her lashes and smiled wickedly. 'This class isn't going to teach me anything I don't already know.' (1.3-4)

The ways different characters talk about and act on sex reveals a lot about their inner characters. Vee is much bolder and open about sex than Nora, often making jokes and innuendos. Sure enough, she's generally a bolder, brasher person than Nora is, too.

Stepping away from the plate, I took a few more practice swings. I almost missed Elliot coming up behind me. He reached his arms around me and positioned his hands on the bat, flush with mine.

'Let me show you, he said in my ear. 'Like this. Feel that? Relax. Now pivot your hips—it's all in the hips.' (6.36-37)

In this mildly steamy moment, Elliot tries to build sexual chemistry with Nora. We find out later that Elliot has nefarious intentions in his aims to get close to Nora—Jules wants to use Elliot to reel Nora in so that he can kill her—so this moment isn't just a flirty batting lesson. It shows Elliot using sex as a tool of manipulation.

'Every woman needs to reinvent her sexy side—I like that. My daughter got implants. She said she did it for herself, but what woman gets boobs for herself? They are a burden. She got the boobs for a man. I hope you do not do stupid things for a boy, Nora.' (7.12)

The voice of feminism comes from an unlikely source, the endearing sixty-ish-year-old housekeeper. It's a comical moment, but the feminism's still in there. Dorothea emphasizes that women should determine their own ideas about sex and sexuality rather than have men dictate the ideas for them.

He trapped my hand against his chest and yanked my sleeve down past my wrist, covering my hand with it. Just as quickly, he did the same thing with the other sleeve. He held my shirt by the cuffs, my hands captured. My mouth opened in protest.

Reeling me closer, he didn't stop until I was directly in front of him. Suddenly he lifted me onto the counter. My face was level with his. He fixed me with a dark, inviting smile. And that's when I realized this moment had been dancing around the edge of my fantasies for several days now. (9.105-106)

Nora, who's previously been reserved about sex, is now caught up in an intensely passionate moment with Patch. She admits it's been on her mind, but she hasn't acted on her feelings for Patch, and now he takes the initiative with words that suggest he's overpowering and dominating her (we're talking about "cuffs," "captured," and "protest"). What do you make of the word choice used here?

I scooted to the edge of the counter, my legs dangling one on either side of him. Something inside or me was telling me to stop—but I swept that voice to the far back of my mind.

He spread his hands on the counter, just outside my hips. Tilting his head to one side, he moved closer. His scent, which was all damp dark earth, overwhelmed me.

I inhaled two sharp breaths. No. This wasn't right. Not this, not with Patch. He was frightening. In a good way, yes. But also in a bad way. A very bad way. (9.109-111)

Nora has conflicting thoughts about Patch and sex. She feels wrong about the intimate moment, and she's afraid of Patch. Why doesn't she listen to the voice telling her to stop?

Without thinking, I slid my hands up his chest and around to his back. A fingertip brushed his right scar.

Patch tensed under my touch. I froze, the tip of my finger quivering on his scar. It took me a moment to realize it wasn't actually my finger moving, but me. All of me. (22.62-63)

Nora and Patch are getting closer, and Nora is becoming more sexually forward, though Patch is still always the persistent initiator. This passage indicates that sex involves not only getting physically closer to someone, but learning more about that person on other levels as well. When Nora touches Patch's scar, she flashes back to scenes from his past.

'If you can't feel, why did you kiss me?'

Patch traced a finger along my collarbone, then headed south, stopping my heart. I felt it pounding through my skin. 'Because I feel it here, in my heart,' he said quietly. 'I haven't lost the ability to feel emotion.' He watched me closely. 'Let me put it this way. Our emotional connection isn't lacking.'

[…] 'You mean you can feel happy or sad or—'

'Desire.' A barely-there smile. (24.58-61)

This is an interesting development. Patch is all about sex with Nora, but he reveals that he can't feel physical sensations because he doesn't have a human body. He indicates that sex is just as much about emotional desire as it is about physical experience, maybe even more so.

'Why did you fall?'

Patch's eyes held mine for a couple of counts. 'Lust.' (24.62-63)

Patch fell from heaven because of lust, so he's obviously been something of a playboy. We wonder if things will truly be different this time around with Nora…

'More?' he asked.

I curled my hands into his hair, pulling him closer. "More." (30.107-108)

The first chapter starts with sex, and the last chapter ends with sex, so it's safe to say this book is about sex. In these final lines, Nora eagerly asks for more sexual contact with Patch rather than encountering sex as an uncomfortable topic in the biology classroom.

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