Sexy Summary & Study Guide

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Sexy Summary & Study Guide Description

Sexy Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Sexy by Joyce Carol Oates.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Oates, Joyce Carol. Sexy. The Ontario Review, Inc., 2005.

Sexy is a coming-of-age story about 16-year-old swimmer, Darren Flynn, and his complicated sexual awakening during his junior year at North Falls High. Though Darren has just joined the varsity team, primarily as a diver, he is not primarily known for his athleticism, but rather for his striking good looks and quiet demeanor. Living with his mild-mannered mother Edith, rough-around-the-edges father Walt, and less-than-disciplined 20-year-old brother Eddy, Darren spends most of his time hanging out with his buddies on the swim team, or communicating with his many female admirers over email.

One day during practice when Darren's close friend Kevin Pyne fails to impress Coach, all the boys make fun of him, including Darren. Feeling sorry for himself and hurt by Darren, Kevin disappears after practice, abandoning Darren at the school without a ride home. Though there is an aggressive snow storm building outside, Darren decides to walk the mile and a half home. Before he leaves, however, his English teacher Mr. Tracy stops Darren and offers him a ride home. Reluctantly, Darren accepts.

On the awkward ride home, Mr. Tracy talks nonstop, overwhelming Darren with a slew of personal questions. Then he insists on stopping at the Coffee Cowboy. Darren waits in the car and Mr. Tracy returns with a juice and Danish for him. He keeps talking the rest of the ride, finally insisting that Darren call him Lowell instead of Mr. Tracy. Remembering that Mr. Tracy is one of the men who seems overly interested in his body at swim meets, Darren feels Mr. Tracy's informality is a sexual advance. Finally at home, he cannot even face his mother, lying about how he got home and ducking into his room, afraid she will know what happened.

As the weeks at school continue, Darren tries to avoid any dialogue with Mr. Tracy, still thinking about the day in the car. Not long after, however, Mr. Tracy tells Darren to stay after class. He tells Darren his last paper was not as good as he could have done, and if Darren promised not to tell anyone, he would let him rewrite the paper without penalty. Feeling uncomfortable again, and knowing Mr. Tracy never gives any students a break on grades, especially not athletes, Darren tears up his paper and denies the offer.

Over winter break, Darren is thankful for his job selling Christmas trees, and his chance to escape school, and Mr. Tracy in particular. For the holidays he visits his friend Molly and her family. Molly gives him an expensive sweater and Darren gives her a heart-shaped necklace. Molly is overwhelmed by the gift and clearly infatuated by Darren, though Darren is confused by his feelings for Molly and whether or not they count as love.

After break, much to Molly's disappointment and Darren's relief, the school transfers him out of Mr. Tracy's class and into Ms. Katzman's. Darren realizes his B in English, as well as the class switch, is a gift from Mr. Tracy he would not have given anyone else.

As the term continues more and more of Darren's friends and teammates start complaining about Mr. Tracy. Jimmy Kovaks, another of Darren's swim buddies, has a particular problem with Mr. Tracy. After Mr. Tracy discover Jimmy has plagiarized a paper, he fails Jimmy, refusing to give him a second chance though Jimmy promises it was a mistake. The failing grade means Jimmy is no longer aloud to swim. Infuriated Mr. Tracy seems to have targeted their friend and best swimmer, the other boys start complaining about Mr. Tracy as well, swearing he is lowering their grades because he is a homosexual biased against jocks.

Rumors circulate rapidly. Wound up in the drama, Drake, one of Darren's least favorite classmates, and his friend Kevin, plant a manila envelope filled with gay porn and kiddie porn in Principal Newlove's office with a message from a fake 11-year-old boy saying he has been molested by Mr. Tracy (111). Disgusted by their antics, Darren tries not to get involved, careful not to defend Mr. Tracy, lest anyone accuse Darren of also being gay.

After Mr. Newlove finds the envelope, and after the boys later bring a similar envelope to the police, town officers and detectives begin an investigation. The school puts Mr. Tracy on indefinite medical leave in the meantime. As the rumors escalate, Eddy and Walt confront Darren about the issue, wondering if he knows anything about Mr. Tracy, hoping he is not involved. Darren insists he knows nothing, though Mr. Tracy has sent me several emails, begging Darren to speak as a character witness on his behalf (125). Hoping to destroy all evidence of their communication, Darren deletes the emails without responding. The next day, however, he receives another lengthier email from his teach, which Darren deletes without finishing. He almost responds that he will do Mr. Tracy the favor, but decides against it, fearing the responses of his family and classmates.

Though Darren does not agree to defend Mr. Tracy, he is furious when he hears Kevin and his other friends have gone to the police, inventing a litany of false stories fortifying claims that their teacher is a sexual offender. The boys tell him the police have a list of boys' names who Mr. Tracy has molested, and the investigation is valid.

Eventually, the police call Darren down to the station for interrogation, as his name has been mysteriously linked to Mr. Tracy's. Darren's friends swear that the detectives are kind, and the questionings are non-threatening. Darren, however, feels cornered by the investigators, trapped into a series of questions he did not expect to have to answer. When the investigator pointedly asks Darren if he ever took a ride from Mr. Tracy, Darren denies it. The detective tells him the mother of a classmate saw him with Mr. Tracy in the Coffee Cowboy parking lot. Trapped and afraid, Darren flees the station.

Three days after the questioning, Mr. Tracy totals his car on Darren's road in the middle of the night during an ice storm. Darren is confused and upset, feeling guilty for his death. He comforts his friend Molly who is especially upset that people have started a rumor regarding their teacher's death, claiming the accident was really a suicide. Darren retrieves the long email from Mr. Tracy he never finished. Reading it after his death, and discovering Mr. Tracy's feelings for him, Darren realizes the email may in fact have been a suicide note.

Shortly afterwards he receives an unmarked envelope in the mail filled with pictures of him in his speedo. Knowing they are the photos Mr. Tracy took of him, Darren tears them up and burns them.

As the year continues, everyone begins to forget Mr. Tracy, except for Darren, who starts skipping class and avoiding his friends. Despite his patchy attendance at school and swim practice, Darren shows up for the most important meet of the seasons, beats all the records, and wins the match for his team. Darren tells a reporter his win is in honor of their late English teacher Mr. Tracy.

In the spring, as Darren gains even more popularity, Jill Brockmeier, a college sophomore invites Darren to a party. Confused at her interest in him, but flattered, Darren attends. Jill, however, ignores him for the majority of the party. Darren feels embarrassed for thinking she liked him, especially when she invited his former friends Drake and Kevin. Later in the night the boys corner Darren, call him a fag, and start a fight. Jill gets in between them and forces them to leave. She carries Darren into a study, where he falls asleep on her father's desk. A few hours later, realizing how badly the boys hurt Darren, Jill cleans him up in the bathroom, and tells him how sexy he is even with a broken nose. The two start kissing and eventually have sex in Jill's room. Afterwards, they talk about what they are going to do for the summer. Remembering how he and Eddy used to spend summers on their aunt and uncle's farm on the Maine coast, Darren tells Jill he will be going away. So relieved by his plan, and the possibility for escape from North Falls, Darren barely listens as Jill talks.

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