Reviewed: 2011-01-14 - (Review Updated: 2011-02-15)
After two books of the trials and tribulations of love, sex and surviving high school, bluedragon returns to the "Ordinary Sex Life" series with "An Ordinary College Sex Life." And for the reader, things just keep getting better and better.
Bluedragon's chronicles of Ben, the sexual savant from Orange County, continue with the protagonist's freshman and sophomore years at the University of California at Berkeley. Once again, the author presents one of those rare sagas that could succeed solely through either its plot or the heat of its erotic scenes. Put the two together, and you've got something truly special.
Ben begins his freshman year with the tempestuous and impossibly gorgeous Adrienne Dennis as his full-fledged girlfriend, with soulmate Dawn Evans accepting the role as his best friend, though making it clear that her long-term goal is to end up as his one-and-only. The trio share a rented house with Ben's pretty older sister, Brandi, and Dawn's voluptuous older sister, Dayna, both of whom have sexual relationships with Ben.
The perfect conditions to begin one's experience in higher education? Well, yes, but you don't really imagine the status quo is going to stay that way, do you?
At 18, Ben is a good deal more mature in dealing with his relationships than his younger self in earlier books, but bluedragon puts him through the emotional ringer and then some. Ben experiences some of the highest highs and lowest lows trying to find a balance in his love life, which includes romantic entanglements with a smitten former Catholic school girl who's socially naive but sexually unpredictable; a younger girl who's long been a part of his life but now challenges him to think of her as girlfriend material; and a beautiful blonde, mysterious and cool (or is it cold?), who might be just the one for whom to consider becoming monogamous.
But nothing comes easily for Ben, and bluedragon keeps the tale rolling, with one engaging storyline after another. The author's ability to manage a very large cast seems almost effortless, but then, strong characters have always been the hallmark of this series. Fans of the first two books may be disappointed to find that bluedragon has pretty much swept all the old playing pieces off the board and started fresh. Ben's high school crew from the upscale suburban enclave in Orange County get little mention, but in their place are a new collection of friends and lovers. Bluedragon somehow manages to keep the foundation of the story anchored to something approximating reality, even as the sexuality stands out as otherworldly.
Most of what makes "Ordinary Sex Life" the most engaging of coming-of-age stories is still present. The story follows the calendar of the school year, with time for one last visit to the family summer camp where so much romantic and sexual magic has previously occurred. Ben still lives an existence in which the young female members of his extended family consider their dalliances with their brother as not "counting" against their other romantic relationships. And Ben is still a sexual superman, his ability to mentally keep a "user manual" on the particular quirks for satisfying each of his lovers seeming almost preternatural. Ben's sexual skills are so consummate that bluedragon treads dangerously close to parodying himself, until a particularly good scene in which one lover calls him out after a technically-superior but relatively emotionless performance.
For the most part, though, Ben is pitch perfect as a first-person protagonist. He's still someone for whom you'll root, and self-effacing enough that one only appreciates all his qualities when other characters enumerate them. He's the most loyal of friends, the most trustworthy of siblings, and when things get deadly (as they do at one point), he's the one you want on your side.
Bluedragon's prose is sharp as always and extremely readable. The length of the story may be daunting, but anyone who's read the first two "Ordinary Sex Life" books won't be intimidated. And, it should be noted, knowledge of the previous stories is pretty much a requirement to get the full enjoyment from "An Ordinary College Sex Life."
Where do all of Ben's relationship end up by the end of his sophomore year? Ah, that would be telling, but suffice it to say this isn't the end of the story, with "An Ordinary College Sex Life 2" anticipated in 2011.