Author: Mette Bach
Publisher: James Lorimer & Company Ltd. Publishers
[Disclaimer: I was provided an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. I was neither compensated nor compelled to write a positive review of the book.]
I had my suspicions when the email arrived in my inbox announcing I was pre-approved for this ( and a couple other) books from Lorimer that this book would be a challenging read for me. It was. I will tell you at the outset, before you read too far, that I did not like this book, that it was not a well written book, and that I cannot recommend this book to any readers–let alone the ages 13+, reading level 3.0 that it is designed for. I have a suspicion that Bach sat down one afternoon and started writing in her journal and the next day sent it off to Lorimer for publishing. I simply cannot envision a scenario where this book took more than 3 or 4 hours to write. It is predictable and stereotypical in every conceivable way.
The problems begin very early in the book when the protagonist begins identifying other characters who will play some role or other in the story. Predictably, Rachel Mackenzie is the 'prettiest girl in the school' and Brooke-Lynn Bradley is another pretty, spoiled, rich girl who will cause Sofie problems in the story. And of course there is Paul, the boyfriend whose only interest seems to be in finding new places (as in, the car) to kiss, or otherwise, his girlfriend Sofie and playing video games.
The book reads like a manual for how to stereotype characters–from the pretty blonde bullies, to the rugged butch lesbian Clea (13), to the popular dumb boyfriend Paul, to the confused and 'femme' Sofie–not one character is original or appealing.
The book is filled with terrible language–especially if it's for kids to read (I understand kids talk 'this way', but there's no reason to perpetuate it). There is a drinking involved in the book (8 and elsewhere). There are hints at sexual intercourse in the book (20, 46). There's yet another 'terrible father' in a book (10). The language is appalling (20, 28, 48, 54, 56, and elsewhere). And besides all this, there is the under-current of problems with the 'church' and the church's view of homosexuality (59) and predictably a 'counter-church' church where the all-inclusive minister is 'married' to his homosexual partner for '25-years' (64; which means they got married in 1990 when this was scarcely an issue).
I'm no prude and am certainly opposed to censorship, but the bottom line is that this book simply had no thought put into it. It manages to cull every stereotype conceivable about homsexuality, the church, bullies, school, friends, and put them all into the hopper that produced this book. The book is filled with meaningless drivel that is supposed to be dialogue–yet this dialogue does nothing to advance the story or help develop a plot. In fact, I'm not really sure there was a plot other than the constant tension of whether or not Sofie and Clea would kiss each other which they do after a back rub, a road trip together, a visit to a gay party, an episode of spooning, and some petty Facebook jealousy.
I'm amazed, frankly, that a girl who starts out the book infatuated with a boy–the best looking boy in the school no less–is able to decide in a few pages that she is, in fact, gay. She does wrestle a bit with this tension in the book, but it seems so strange to me that this all resulted from her being paired with Clea in a Literature class. So it made me wonder: If Sofie had never been paired with Clea in class would she have decided she was a lesbian after all or would she have stayed 'straight'?
In my opinion, the best and most realistic part of the book was the interaction Sofie had with her mother in chapter 15. In this chapter, they visit a church that is gay-friendly (whatever that means). The minister comes in 'wearing rainbow colors' (more stereotyping) and mom is 'puzzled' (63). On subsequent pages, we see the mother crying (we are told several times on the following pages that the mother is crying) after Sofie confirms she is gay. I think this is probably the most honest part of the book because it speaks to that aspect of 'coming out' that we do not hear about. We frequently hear about the supportive families or those who utterly reject their children, but we don't often learn about the families for whom this 'coming out' becomes a sincere moment of emotional upheaval.
I cannot imagine it is easy for a mother or a father to learn about such things, but we are never given this sort of middle ground response. Typically people are either throwing parties for their new gay child or they are casting them into hell. I think both responses are reactionary and thoughtless. I think the response given in this book by the author is honest: I imagine it to be a heartbreaking experience for most people. This was the best part of the book because I think it was the most honest and if I applaud the author at all, it is here.
The bullies are predictable (calling her a 'dyke'; although I sensed that the main bully, Brooke-Lynn, was more offended that Sophie had Paul than she was that Sophie was a lesbian): there's a Facebook page set up by the bullies, there's the name calling, and there's the bullies getting caught and all being made well in the world. The book ends rather predictably with all the conflicts resolved and Clea and Sofie as girlfriends happily in love.
There's nothing about this book that is interesting. There is nothing about it that is unique. There is nothing about it that is driven by a sense of creativity. It is rife with stereotype and predictability. It's not a good story (there really is no plot). It's not well written (too much reliance upon base language). I understand the book is written for young people (13+ according to the cover), but I think authors ought to hold their readers to a higher standard and I think publishers ought to hold their authors to a higher standard as well. The book is billed as a girl whose 'new friendship with the only out lesbian at school' leading her to question her own 'sexuality and future.' It really wasn't so much a matter of questioning such things in the book. It was about the inevitability of her deciding she was a lesbian.
This is not one of Lorimer's better publications and not because it deals with some serious questions regarding homosexuality, but because it is just a terrible story and poorly written.