D.H. Jonathan’s much awaited follow-up to his first novel, The ‘Volunteer’, is a great read and carves out satisfying trajectories for the characters. The Girl Who Stopped Wearing Clothes picks up shortly after the events of the previous novel, and addresses the following questions, among others – what will Dani, the “Naked Girl,” do now that the social experiment has ended? Will Dr. Slater, the sociologist who devised the experiment, seek to develop the scenario further? And, will the same tolerance and acceptance that Dani received, also be extended to a “Naked Guy”?
Author Jonathan cycles through three narrative perspectives over the course of the novel: Dani’s, Adam’s, and Michael’s. Adam is the cameraman and showrunner for a reality show based on Dani’s life, while Michael, a minor character in the first novel, is a student motivated by Dani’s example to try walking nude on campus. He is recruited by Dr. Slater as the subject of the second phase of her study. The real-life example of “Naked Guy” Andrew Martínez, the nude student at Berkeley, was mentioned as an inspiration in the first novel by Dr. Slater, and continues to inform the events of The Girl Who Stopped Wearing Clothes. Another important background influence that informs the novel is the Old Testament book of Genesis, since the new campus chaplain at Coachella Valley University has a thing or two to say about how Christians need to accept that humanity was created in God’s image.
But the most interesting springboard for the novel is the earlier novel itself, The ‘Volunteer’. Similar to Cervantes’ sequel to Don Quixote, in which the characters have read or heard of the book Don Quixote published ten years earlier, The Girl Who Stopped Wearing Clothes is a kind of metafiction in which Dani is about to publish her book, The ‘Volunteer’. Her fame has attracted Adam’s attention, who manages to pitch a show based on Dani’s life to Netflix, although only with the help of a problematic producer. The show will be called The Girl Who Stopped Wearing Clothes… and much of what we read in the novel involves the careful crafting of this “reality” show. How exactly does one create one’s reality? Is reality all just a big experiment? These are questions equally applicable to Don Quixote. Dr. Slater’s funds have allowed the campus to install cameras everywhere – something that facilitates the Russian-doll game of who is watching who’s reality – and the novel’s epilogue, set five years later, continues the filming-of-reality trope.
This metafictional frame allows author Jonathan to finesse some of the assertions or perspectives from the first novel, by proclaiming them to be the consequence of editorial meddling, for example, or to have been hiding motives that are only now revealed. The result is a certain amount of suspense carried over from the first novel, which even affects the new characters such as Michael and the very assertive Debbie. Michael’s and Debbie’s confrontation with the insidious double standard against nudity–the one that goes something like ‘everybody wants to see a naked woman, but nobody wants to see a naked man’–ultimately threatens Dani’s hard-won nude freedom and Adam’s chance to make his career.
Does the novel qualify as naturist fiction, or is it more properly a novel about social nudism, or a novel about people who go clothesfree in public? Given that Dani and Michael both defend their nudity by referring to nature and the natural state of humanity, and to the liberating and invigorating feeling of the elements on their skin, one can certainly argue that they are hoping to lead society toward not only a greater acceptance of nudity, but also of social nudism, or indeed naturism, as a way of life.
There are a couple romantic relationships in the novel, and they are successfully and convincingly developed. The matter of Michael’s erections while nude is treated fairly realistically – as realistically as possible, I would argue. Author Jonathan also manages to include a life-modeling scene, where there are no doubt many elements drawn from his own decades-long experience as a life model. All in all, the novel is a compelling read that brings Dani’s nude-on-campus experience to a satisfying closure. I highly recommend it!
For more about D. H. Jonathan’s work, check out his website at dhjonathan.com. You can also read my interview with him for my series of interviews with naturist authors called “Disrobing Suspense.”
4 thoughts on “The Girl Who Stopped Wearing Clothes by D. H. Jonathan: A Naturist Review”
Comparisons to Don Quixote seems like high praise to me. Thank you so much for the review here on naturistfiction.org!
You’re welcome! I’m getting around to Amazon and Goodreads…
This does sound like an interesting read. Thank you for the extensive review, Will!
Thanks, Paul! It’s definitely a good read.