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.

Zoe Reed – Interference

Interference

The last thing Jordan Marshall wants is a relationship, especially with someone like Taylor Becks, the star player from a rival hockey team. Taylor doesn’t talk- to anyone. When Jordan’s curiosity about the athlete overpowers her predisposition to being guarded, the two strike up an unlikely romance. In the midst of desolation left by being disowned and forbidden from seeing her little brother, Jordan finds that sometimes the biggest risks reap the greatest rewards. 

REVIEW
If you’re a Gen-Xer or Millennial who spent your teenage years in Culver City, CA, you know the hot spot on Friday night was the Culver City Ice Arena. I remember skating at the rink with friends while listening to US3’s “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” blaring on the speakers and chasing after one boy, or two boys, or three. I was such a teenage hussy. I met too many boyfriends (that I’m embarrassed to admit) on that block of ice. I miss those days. Except playing the “boy-crazy” part. Now, I’m just a girl-crazy fool that slips and slides on the dance floor at a gay bar. I am proof positive that grace does not come with age.

The person who recommended this book warned me that I wasn’t going to like Jordan very much during the first few chapters. She was right. If I met Jordan in real life, I’d run for the hills. She comes with enough red flags to open her own damn airport. I think that many of us, casually (if you know what I mean) have encountered this type. They flit in and out of your life, and you hardly get more than a 2-second glance before they disappear for good. It’s never enough time to get to know who they really are, and they prefer it that way.

But we don’t always realize is that everyone is carrying their own baggage. If we’re fortunate enough and we take a chance, we find someone who will help shoulder our burden. Most of the time, we’re just floundering aimlessly, carrying our load like a high school student who stuffs six classes worth of books in a Jansport backpack because they’re too lazy to use a locker.

Unfortunately, some of us believe that we don’t deserve to be happy and when we’re finally at a place where we are, we ruin it rather than believe it’s true. We “wait for the other shoe to drop”, so to speak. This is the place where Jordan resides. She comes with some pretty heavy baggage, and life has dealt her a pretty shitty hand of cards. It’s the same with Taylor but different circumstances. Without giving too much away, they both deal with significant loss in their lives, and how they recover from that loss and move forward together is what makes this a beautiful story to read. Jordan and Taylor take a chance, but more importantly, they believe in each other and in the capacity to heal and change for the better.

Needless to say, I grew rather fond of Jordan. She has a bigger heart than I thought she did at the beginning of the novel. I would say that this genre hovers in the space between YA and adult fiction. Fans of both genres will be entertained!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Bruno Mars – Treasure
2. Smallpools – Dreaming
3. Allen Stone – Say So
4. US3 – Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)
5. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
6. Haim – The Wire
7. Gotye – In Your Light
8. Tei Shi – Go Slow
9. Beyonce – Love on Top
10. Made in Heights – Ghosts
11. Ghosttown DJs – My Boo
12. Kaptan – Anywhere We Go

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a hot chocolate.

Kristen Zimmer – The Gravity Between Us

Gravity

At just 19, Kendell Bettencourt is Hollywood’s hottest young starlet, with the world at her feet-but behind the glamour and designer dresses is a girl who longs for normal.

Payton Taylor is Kendall’s best friend since childhood, and the one person who reminds her of who she really is – her refuge from the craziness of celebrity life.

With her career taking off, Kendall moves Payton to LA to help keep her sane. But Payton is hiding a secret that could make everything ten times worse. Because to her, Kendall is more than a best friend – she is the only girl that she has ever loved.

Just as they need each other more than ever, they’ll have to answer the question of where friendship stops and love begins? And find out whether the feelings they have can survive the mounting pressure of fame…

The Gravity Between Us is a daring, romantic, emotional story about friendship, love, and finding the courage to be yourself in a crazy world.

REVIEW
I bought my first lesbian novel at Border’s Bookstore in 1998. Their gay & lesbian section was tucked away in a dark corner shelf, and only had about 20 different books. The book that I purchased was the only lesbian novel they had available for sale. When I came home, I ripped out one of my large calendar pages, crafted a book cover, and took it with me to school to read in secret during recess and lunch.

Fast forward 17 years, and it feels like a completely different world. During the time that I came out, I couldn’t imagine living openly as a lesbian.  I didn’t even consider the possibility of someday being categorized as “normal” because of my “alternative” lifestyle. Now, I have the chance to get married like everyone else and enjoy equal rights and protection under the law. AND I get to read my lesbian books on a small electronic device that has the ability to access and store thousands of novels. We’re living in a momentous time, folks!

The Gravity Between Us was my re-introduction to the genre. It’s written from the perspective of both Kendall Bettencourt and Payton Taylor, which provides a nice contrast to their individual experiences in exploring and defining their sexual identities. As with many coming-of-age novels in the lesbian fiction genre, there’s plenty of teenage angst, tears, and binge drinking. Come to think of it, this still happens in adulthood. The only difference is that we’re (hopefully) making better alcoholic beverage choices and instead of drowning our sorrows with Smirnoff Ice and Boone’s Farm, we’re taking shots of whiskey, or drinking a vintage bottle of Bordeaux if we grew up to be a REAL CLASSY lesbian lady.

For all the lesbians, do you remember your first girl kiss? The nervousness that you felt during the moments before, followed by fireworks and the irrefutable sense of “Oh! So THIS is what it’s supposed to feel like!”, then at the end, just wanting to kiss her again and again. This book captured those emotions, the newness of feeling, and the stumbling into uncharted territories very nicely. Kendall and Payton’s transition from friend-status to girlfriend-status didn’t feel awkward or forced; it was a natural progression that within the context of their long-established friendship, made sense. Not that love ever really “makes sense” but it makes this love story more plausible for its readers.

YA novels in the les fic genre tend to be pretty emotionally turbulent and this book was no exception.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Green Day – Brain Stew
2. Kelly Clarkson – Since You’ve Been Gone
3. Billie Holiday – God Bless The Child
4. BT – Simply Being Loved
5. Deadmau5 feat. Kaskade – I Remember (Vocal Remix)
6. Miles Davis – It Never Entered My Mind
7. 5 Seconds of Summer – Amnesia
8. Moby – Almost Home (Sound Remedy Remix)
9. Sara Bareilles – Gravity
10. Hans Zimmer – Iris’ Melody
11. Siberia – Lights

CHEERS!
This book is best read with a coke.

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.