Can We Talk About Consent?: A Non-Fiction Review

Can We Talk About Consent?: A Book About Freedom, Choices, and Agreement by Justin Hancock, illustrated by Fuchsia MacareeConsent is a big concept. But not everyone understands what it means or how to make sure it’s properly given and received.

That’s where Can We Talk About Consent?: A Book About Freedom, Choices, and Agreement (2021) by Justin Hancock, illustrated by Fuchsia Macaree comes in.

Find it on Bookshop.

Hancock uses his experience from his work as a sex and relationship educator to break down how consent works in a few areas in this book geared toward younger readers including:

  • how we greet each other
  • how to choose things for ourselves
  • how we say no to things
  • communicating¬†and respecting¬†choices in sexual relationships
  • the factors that can affect a person’s ability to choose
  • how to empower other people by giving them consent

The book itself says it’s for readers age 14 and up (likely because sex is mentioned and because some pages are text heavy) but if read together with discussion, this can work for younger readers as well.

Hancock’s no-nonsense text is approachable with clear examples (and a lot of pizza metaphors) to break down this crucially important topic. Macaree’s illustrations add a lot of pop and variety to the book and also represent people with a realistic variety of skin tones and appearances.

Unfortunately, the design of the book itself makes Can We Talk About Consent? nearly unreadable in places and favors gimmicky page spreads in favor of clearly sharing information.

The book has full color illustrations and is printed on glossy paper. This with the small text and narrow trim size, means the book has small print. Compounding the issue: some of the illustrations are very low contrast like one with speech bubbles that are dark green with black text.

low contrast image from Can We Talk About Consent? intertior pageMeanwhile other page spreads have completely bizarre layouts including one shaped like a pizza (I cannot overstate the amount of pizza in this book) where the most important information (“If consent is about choices and freedom, then it’s more than just avoiding something we don’t want.”) is not only buried at the bottom of the page but printed upside down.

overly designed page image from Can We Talk About Consent? intertior pageCan We Talk About Consent? shares a ton of important and valuable information (including a glossary and additional resources). Unfortunately a book design that seemingly failed to consider that this book has to be read makes it difficult to easily interface with much of that information–particularly for anyone who is visually impaired or needs larger and clearer text to read.