With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger.
At least, it seems to be.
But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?
Rating: 2.5 stars
This book had all the key elements to be an enjoyable read for me: f/f relationships, YA, heavy topics. Yet… I didn’t really like it.
I had a really hard time putting my feelings together for this book because it was written in 2005 when things were still a bit different. Now, discrimination against LGBTQ+ is still very prominent today (even though it’s ridiculous), but I think that a lot of the literature surrounding sexual realization and awakening has progressed a lot. I don’t generally have the same type of quips with contemporaries that I had with this one.
First, the amount of homophobia in this was terrifying. I know that this book surely speaks to someone’s experience and I’m not attempting to negate that at all. It was just really hard to read without getting enraged at the stupidity. Homophobia is something that anyone in the LGBTQ+ community has to experience at some time, whether it’s direct or indirect, and it sucks. Unfortunately, it’s a very real part of life. I didn’t want to judge the book based on that because like I said, this is without a doubt someone’s experience and if it helped anyone get through coming out, then I’m glad it existed. My problems with this stemmed from other things.
There is an immense amount of judging going on in this story and the main character is the biggest culprit. She’s an absolute menace to the entire book. She slut shames one of her best friends so many times that I lost count, and she has zero qualms about it. Granted, the best friend turns out to be a homophobic brat, but we’ve already addressed that issue. Holland also jumps the gun to judge her step sister. She immediately stereotypes her gothic-styled step sister as being into torture and she even references the Columbine mass school shooting, insinuating that her sister’s style of clothes somehow negates her entirely into an awful human being capable of mass murder. Then, at one point, she uses the term “feminist” as an insult when referring to Cece. Basically, she says, “Don’t worry, she’s not a feminist“, like a person is awful and unlikable if they are one.
Beyond the hate, I felt like the characters were mostly poorly developed. Every single character was written into the story as a supporting character for Holland’s story- even Cece, the girlfriend. No one gets fully developed, so it feels like they just come and go like little side notes to add drama or flair to the mix. The writing was good but sometimes the way that the dialogue was worded was frustrating for me. I think that that is really a personal thing though, so it depends on what you like whether or not it would bother you.
Now, because of these things, I mostly hate the book. There were two things that made it better for me: 1) the actual romance. I didn’t feel like we really got the proper build up to Cece and Holland, which was frustrating, but I liked them together. 2) The handling of the sexual realization and homophobia. Sadly, a lot of kids get the same treatments from their parents when they come out that Holland got from her mother. It was sad that this broken relationship didn’t get reconciled in the book, but only because I know that it must be heartbreaking for someone to go through that type of treatment.
The reason I gave the book a 2.5 stars was because I feel like Julie Anne Peters made a character who was going through something awful, was depressed and abandoned, and still gave her more of a story. It wasn’t just about her sexuality or just about her mother kicking her out or just about her relationship. It was a big mix of everything and Holland is fierce and stands up for herself and prevails in a way that not a lot of LGBTQ+ kids get the opportunity to do. The story also doesn’t end with some rushed, sugar-coated happy ending. It felt gritty and real and that gave me more respect for the book then I’d had the entire time.
Overall, it wasn’t the greatest read for me. It infuriated me over and over again, but it portrays the reality for a lot of people. And even though I hate that people even have to experience such hateful treatment, I certainly don’t hate the story for calling attention to the bigotry.