Nancy Garden – Annie on My Mind

Annie

The groundbreaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings.

Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.

REVIEW
Annie on My Mind is a beautiful love story about a friendship that blooms into love for two young women who are from different sides of the track. Liza attends a private high school and comes from a white-collar family, and Annie attends a public school and comes from a lower-income part of town. They’re both bright and accomplished teenagers: Liza, who is applying for MIT to study architecture and Annie, a talented singer who dreams of being accepted into the music program at UC Berkeley. The connection that they feel is immediate, and it grows as they spend more time with each other.

This is a deeply introspective and well-written coming-of-age novel. Truly an extraordinary work from both a historical and literary standpoint. Dare, I say, its significance to American culture rivals Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? Annie on My Mind was published in 1982. I read this novel for the first time as a high school student in 1999, then again as an adult in 2016. Over the years, the story has not lost its beauty, its meaning, or even its relevance in today’s society. Looking at current statistics of teenagers who have become homeless after coming out to their families, you’ll agree that this book still has a very important place in our library shelves. Even as our society continues to progress, Annie on My Mind will be our reminder of where we were before, where we are today, and where we need to be tomorrow.

Annie on My Mind is the first gay/lesbian novel that I read, and it was during a very significant time in my life.

Since I can remember, I’ve always gravitated towards women. 4-year-old me used to hide behind my mother’s skirt when we went to our local grocery store because I thought the cashier was attractive. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I felt brave enough to openly admit those feelings. It was a frightening experience for me. I never felt as alone and isolated as I did after I came out to my parents. Even now, it’s difficult for me to talk about how my mother reacted and the irreparable damage it’s done to our relationship.

I was fortunate enough to have a teacher at my high school who put this book in my hand and told me that everything was going to be okay. Annie on My Mind helped me feel like I was a normal kid, and that I wasn’t some evil, Godless soul doomed to spend an eternity burning in hell for following my heart. It’s amazing how a $6.95 paperback novel can change your perspective and change your life. I’ve been writing reviews on this site for this reason. In my own way, I want to pay it forward. Even if it only reaches one person and helps him/her feel less alone in this terrifyingly brave process of coming out, then it would make every minute that I spent working on this website worth the time and effort. Our world deserves more love. We all deserve more love.

And everything is going to be okay. Promise.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Great Good Fine Ok – Say It All
2. Citizen Cope – One Lovely Day
3. Little Brutes – Make Our Own Way
4. Betty Who – You’re in Love
5. Mary Lambert – She Keeps Me Warm
6. Jesse Rubin – This Is Why I Need You
7. Chelsea Lankes – Secret
8. Emily King – Distance
9. David Gray – Back in the World
10. Christina Perri & Ed Sheeran – Be My Forever

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a coke.

Gerri Hill – At Seventeen

Seventeen

Madison Lansford and Shannon Fletcher met when they were ten years old. Madison-daughter of wealthy parents and Shannon, daughter of their live-in maid and cook-became fast friends, yet both knew their place in life. There was never a doubt that they would become lovers…there was also never a doubt that Madison would marry and maintain her social standing in the community. Little by little, they grew apart, their love affair ending with Madison’s marriage and pregnancy. Now, years later, Shannon returns to her old hometown to care for her ailing mother. Can they rebuild their friendship? Or will their new-found closeness bring back memories of their long-lost love? Travel through the years with Shannon and Madison and watch their love unfold as they move from teens to young women and into adulthood. 

REVIEW
This is the third book I’ve read that’s written by the infamous Gerri Hill, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. She has the lesbian romance-writing formula down, so I know that I’m always guaranteed a good time. (Snicker) At Seventeen is no exception to that formula. Her novels are pretty quick reads, and perfect if you’re sitting at an airport and need to kill some time before a flight. There aren’t a lot of surprises in the novel, and there’s a comfort in it’s predictability. You know that you can expect good writing and a good ending with Gerri Hill, which is the appeal of picking up her books. At least, it is for me.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly with this novel:

The Good – This is almost like the lesbian version of Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook, but the story starts in childhood, ends in (early-ish) adulthood, and no one dies together while holding hands. There’s a clear distinction between what happens in the past and what happens in the present, so there’s no confusion for its readers. It skips back and forth until about a third into the book, then it continues on in the present. The storyline of At Seventeen is really its strong point, and the buildup of the romance between Madison and Shannon is very nicely done.

The Bad – The characters were a bit one-dimensional. Characterizations bring a depth to the story and because of it’s absence in At Seventeen, it left me wanting just a little more. Some of the characters’ actions, especially Shannon’s friends, were confusing. Even when there was some clarification in the end, it wasn’t very satisfying.

The Ugly – There’s a kid in the story. I have no gripes about a kid being in any story, but his presence doesn’t add very much to it. And I get it, you could justify that his existence helps reinforce the message that things happen for a reason, but I felt like he was moved around like a Monopoly piece.  It was almost too easy to roll the dice and move him down the board when they needed him to disappear.

It wasn’t my favorite from Gerri Hill, but I enjoyed the novel and it provided a nice little escape for a few hours.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Priscilla Ahn – Dream
2. John Mayer – All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye
3. Regina Spektor – Fidelity
4. Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love For You
5. John Mayer – Friends, Lovers, or Nothing
6. Colbie Caillat – Realize
7. Mariah Carey – When I Saw You
8. Janet Jackson – Where Are You Now
9. Meiko – Lucky We Are
10. The Cure – Love Song
11. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
12. Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat – Lucky

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

SOUTHERN COMFORT CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL
-1 oz of Southern Comfort
-Dash of Angostura bitters
-4 oz of chilled champagne (M&R Asti is recommended)
-Twisted lemon peel

Pour the Southern Comfort in a champagne glass.  Add a dash of bitters, then top off with the champagne.  Garnish with a twisted lemon peel.

Kelly Quindlen – Her Name in the Sky

HerName

Seventeen-year-old Hannah wants to spend her senior year of high school going to football games and Mardi Gras parties. She wants to drive along the oak-lined streets of Louisiana’s Garden District and lie on the hot sand of Florida’s beaches. She wants to spend every night making memories with her tight-knit group of friends. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a girl–especially when that girl is her best friend, Baker. Hannah knows she should like Wally, the kind, earnest boy who asks her to prom. She should cheer on her friend Clay when he asks Baker to be his girlfriend. She should follow the rules of her conservative community–the rules that have been ingrained in her since she was a child. But Hannah longs to be with Baker, who cooks macaroni and cheese with Hannah late at night, who believes in the magic of books as much as Hannah does, and who challenges Hannah to be the best version of herself. And Baker might want to be with Hannah, too–if both girls can embrace that world-shaking, wondrous possibility. In this poignant coming-of-age novel, Hannah must find a compromise between the truth of her heart and the expectations of her community. She must break through her shame and learn to trust in the goodness of her friends. And above all, she and Baker must open their hearts to the saving power of love. Raw, moving, and teeming with unforgettable characters, Her Name in the Sky is a modern love story about the teenage quest for identity and the redeeming power of the human heart.

REVIEW
I was initially very hesitant to read this novel. My past experience with religion was an unpleasant one, and I steered clear of most literature that made any reference to Catholicism/Christianity. But… this book did come highly recommended, so I decided to give it a shot.

Holy Moly…

I am humbled by this book.  It’s difficult for me to write a review that does this literary work any justice because it’s extraordinary.  As with any review, I can only draw from my own personal reading experience and hope that my words won’t diminish its value.

Her Name in the Sky is the perfect illustration of truth in fiction.  It delves deeply into important coming-of-age issues such as love, religion, family, friendship, depression, bullying, and discrimination.  I’m sure that for some of us, it’ll bring back painful memories of high school that we don’t care to relive again. It did for me.  But it’s important for us (not-so-young) adults to remember and reflect on that time period in our lives, so that we understand and acknowledge that there are teens going through this today, and teens that will go through this tomorrow. Sometimes, we grow so distant from our past that it becomes more and more difficult for us to relate to the future. Our human experiences are what bind us together… and our world can use a little more compassion.

Her Name in the Sky captures the innocence of first love, and all the complications that follow when girl loves girl in a “girl is supposed to love boy” world.  Hannah and Baker are admirable in their bravery, and in the way that they each weather the storm both separately and together.

You’ll get to experience a myriad of emotions when you read this novel.  This book literally broke my literary heart and pieced it back together at the end.  You’ll feel like you’ve gone through a very long crying session, but trust me, it’s well worth it.

My hope is that anyone that has taken the time to read through this review… If you know someone who’s isolated or feels alone that can benefit from this book, please pay it forward and pass it along.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Eli Young Band – Even If It Breaks Your Heart
2. Madonna – Like a Prayer
3. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
4. R.E.M – Losing My Religion
5. Haerts – Wings
6. Evvy – Collide
7. Lovelife – Dying to Start Again
8. Fray – Look After You
9. Coldplay – The Scientist
10. Matthew Koma – Spectrum (Acoustic)
11. Taylor Swift feat. Civil Wars – Safe & Sound
12. Fray – How to Save a Life
13. Coldplay – Warning Sign
14. Sunday Drive – Sacred Delight

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a coke.