“Not Afraid of Life” is a vent for her fury.
Palin and Johnston’s combustible relationship has been exciting the media ever since John McCain picked Palin’s mother as his running mate in the 2008 election. Now, at the age of 20, Palin has written a memoir about the ordeal of being Johnston’s partner, a teenage mother to their child and a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” (Johnston will, of course, release his own memoir later this summer.)
Johnston is called a “gnat” and a “big guy who had a talent for trash-talking but nothing else.” He’s “inarticulate,” “cocky” and “obnoxious.” He’s the bully who pulls hair, trips people and “put Ex-Lax in some kid’s brownie.” He lies to her all the time — about other girls, about having bought a new truck even though he was broke, about reeling in “twelve fish when he didn’t catch any.” Yet he hooked Palin.
“Like many women throughout history, I went for the ‘bad boy’ who didn’t care about authority,” she says. “Levi’s bad behavior wasn’t a deal breaker for me.” They had an on-again, off-again relationship from the moment they met in seventh grade that, according to Palin, was always being tested by his romps with other girls and her family’s disapproval of him.
She begins the book with their lowest moment together, promising that “No one has ever heard this part of my story” and that what we’re about to read “would affect my life in ways a teenager could not comprehend.”
What happened? One summer night in high school, Palin lies to her mom, saying she’s spending the night at her friend’s house. Instead, she goes camping with Johnston and some friends. She writes that she had never taken a sip of alcohol before the camping trip — “I knew nothing about anything bad really . . . especially the differences between vodka, beer, and whiskey” — but as she sits by the fire, she finds herself enjoying the way the wine coolers Johnston is plying her with make her feel “young and carefree.” The next thing Palin remembers is waking up in his tent with his empty sleeping bag by her side.
“What I don’t remember is what transpired between the moment when I was sitting there by the fire talking and the moment I awakened the next morning,” she writes. She goes on: “Suddenly, I wondered why it was called ‘losing your virginity,’ because it felt more like it had been stolen.”
Did something sinister take place in the woods? It’s not clear. Later, she softens the account by writing that she “barely remembered” the night. Then, two chapters after that, she says of the encounter, “We’d messed up.” So it was a mutual bad decision but the sex was consensual? This seems important. But whatever happened in the tent that night, they were soon in a sexual relationship.