It doesn't seem fair to take on a book like Slave In Training and to WTF all over it. I mean, it's not like there were hidden themes and I got caught without wearing protective trigger warning safety goggles. Still, even in the context of a slavefic, there were elements of this book that had me shaking my head. However, it did explore some interesting concepts servitude and bondage and, written in first person, it felt very personal and heartfelt.
SIT explores the concept of total power exchange in a semi-alternate universe where there is a small but notable underground community of personal slaves, masters, trainers and slave markets. We meet Max, our teenage protagonist who, after getting to know his PE teacher, feels his true nature and calling is to be a slave. His teacher, James Teka, eventually becomes his trainer and takes Max from a novice trainee through the rigors of becoming a full fledged and certified slave ready for market. Not surprisingly, Max thrives under James' tutelage and many feels develop, but do not think for one second that you will be enjoying a fluffy romantic slavefic (leave that to Bran, Holden, Yves and Jer).
Now for my issues. No doubt, the biggest problem for me was the fact that Max was so young and that he was a minor when he met James and started spending time with him. Yes, they did wait till he was graduated from school and for him to turn 18 before anything hardcore happened. And yes, there was discussion about Max acknowledging that he was entering his training freely and on his own volition. So arguably, it was all consensual. In my opinion, Max as way too young and way too impressionable to be able to give such consent. While turning 18 is a legal milestone with respect to becoming an adult, we all know that nothing magically happens once that birthday happens. Max was immature, just check out this comment he made to his parents (who were logically arguing that this relationship with James was probably a bad idea):
Yes. You and mom believe a lot of wrong things. You look at the world through your narrow bourgeois vision.
Every 18 year old thinks they know everything and have it all figured out, and Max is no exception. And anyone who has lived at least ten years beyond 18 knows that 18 year olds are clueless. Bottom line, this was all non-con for me. I would have enjoyed this much more if Max was 27 going on 28.
James, the slave trainer was African, and Max ogled over his physical traits. I was not sure what to make of this, but it seemed a bit of 'turn the tables' on the African American slave narrative. It felt awkward to me.
Perhaps there was a bit too much plot? This is really about an emotional journey of self discovery, and the conspiracy sub-plot, while slightly interesting, felt like too much of a good thing. Maybe it would have worked better as a thriller with a slave sub-plot.
The parents. I am really glad they were featured and I am really glad that they weren't complete pushovers. While I wish they were more assertive, I supposed the book would have been over quickly if they were. I appreciate the father trying to understand what Max is going through, but
Lastly, what's up with brand new security guards becoming
? It seemed inconsistent with the concept of training an certification to give these guys that sort of power.
So yes, I had issues but I also enjoyed reading this. I am curious to hear more from Max at the further adventures hinted at in the epilogue. For sure, there are some very difficult passages. If the topic interests you, and if you can handle cruel masochists in a TPE, this might be a good read. But please do not mistake this for consensual TPE, it's non-con all the way.
ETA - I read the English translation of this book