Book Review: Virgin by Radhika Sanghani

Virgin by Radhika Sanghani


Feeling mortified about filling out the section on the medical form that asks if you’re sexually active.


Wondering if that hair removal cream should sting that much.


Deliberating on whether or not a bargain shop Brazilian wax is a bad idea.


Finding a guy, any guy, to end your endless state of virginity. 


These are Ellie’s problems.


Do you remember the book that defined your late teens or early 20s? Was your favourite stuffed with intellectual stimulation and young adult angst? Or was it a forbidden and wicked novel that introduced you to the ways of the world (you know, how Judy Blume introduced us to the mysteries of boys and puberty 5 years before).  For me, there was obviously a lot of both (as you can imagine I was a voracious reader). But my stand-out deliciously naughty hidden pleasure was Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz. Decadently 80s, this pulpy novel defined the times, full as it was of  love, glamour, excess, and sexual exploration. I ate it up.


Each generation has certain novels that define them. I think Virgin by 23-year old Radhika Sanghani, might be the one for millennial women. Hilariously funny, frank, honest, and necessarily cringe-worthy, Virgin is a novel that explores the questions that define our womanhood: Does membership is the V-club really matter? How important is the condition of our public hair when push comes to shove? Couched in humour and narrated by a main character possibly even more bumbling and fabulously disastrous than Bridget Jones, the themes of feminism and what it means to be female in today’s world shine through. 


Okay, I admit it…I didn’t do it.
This is normal, right?  I mean, just because everyone I know has talked like they’ve already done it doesn’t mean that they’re telling the truth…right?
It’s not like I’m asking for that much. I don’t need the perfect guy. I don’t need candlelight or roses. Honestly, I don’t even need a real bed.
The guys I know complain that girls are always looking for Mr. Right—do I have to wear a sign that says I’m only looking for Mr. Right Now?
Sooooo…anyone out there want sex? Anyone? Hello? Just for fun?
I am not going to die a virgin. One way or another I am going to make this happen.
Hey, what have I got to lose? Besides the obvious.


I’ll be honest. When I received Virgin, I gave it to my 20-year old daughter to read. I thought (rightly so) that she would love it. But off to spend a weekend being pampered like a teenager at my mother’s I grabbed it back. It was the perfect choice for a fun weekend read. Sure it’s about 21 year old Ellie’s insatiable desire to lose her virginity as the solution to all of her life problems, but really, I think any woman will relate to her struggles with what it means to be 21. Ellie’s confusion about sex, love, self-esteem, friendship, her wardrobe –  and even the state of her vagina – is timeless.


Radhika Sanghani has made an astonishing effort for such a young author. While her writing isn’t sophisticated, I think she strikes just the right balance between pop culture journalism and popular fiction. Her readers need to be able to relate to her message, after all. There’s no reason the thinking can’t happen while readers are laughing. Her characters are just the right kind of whiny and self-centred to be realistic.  I know this because I know these girls. I hear them giggling in the room down the hall from mine – all night on Facebook and Snapchat and talking about boyfriends and clothes and friends and who’s doing what.


This generation is different. They’ve been weaned on Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars and Teen Mom. They’re naive and wise at the same time. They want things -career, life, love, independence – but they don’t know how to handle all the too much too soon. They’re too pampered and protected to grow up. They know everything and nothing. What they need is a heroine who is the same. And possibly Sanghani has provided one.


Whether you’re looking for a laugh with some depth or a great book to give to the young woman in your life, Virgin is the one. You should read it. Will you?


Radhika Sanghani is a 23-year-old full-time journalist for The Daily Telegraph where she specializes in writing about women and women’s issues.  She has an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City University London, a BA in English Literature from University College London, and recently came second in GQ’s Norman Mailer writing competition.  Virgin is her debut novel. 

Recommend Factor: 7/10 (obviously not for everyone)

Unputdownable Factor: 9/10

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