After True Letters From A Fictional Life, which I had to admit I did not expect to like as much as I did, I was lucky enough to read Georgia Peaches, which also surprised me by having a lot more depth than I expected.
The main character, Jo Gordon, is almost the stereotypical lesbian – indie af and hangs out with a very alternative crowd, with a best friend who is probably also a bad influence on her. But that isn’t all that she is – she is also a Good Christian, capital letters and all, and her single father is a successful radio pastor who accepts her as she is… until he meets a woman and falls in love, moving his work (and daughter) to Rome, Georgia. And because Rome is a very conservative small town, and he wants to please his new in-laws, he asks Jo to walk back into her closet.
Jo agrees at first, answering to her full name (Joanna) and changing her hair and wardrobe to suit a “straight girl next door” persona, but then she meets and falls for Mary Carlson, who may feel the same way about her. Oh, dear.
The romance is sweet and of the slow-burn variety which is exactly how I like it, and reminds me of my favourite movies in my college days – But I’m A Cheerleader! and The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love. That alone would’ve made me pretty happy with this book, but I also love the friendships depicted in it – the one Jo develops with Mary Carlson and her whole group of friends, the one Mary Carlson has with HER best friend, and the one Jo has with hers. All the friendships had different, complex dynamics, and I LOVE IT.
There’s also the matter of faith – Joanna’s faith had always been ignored or considered inconsequential among her previous friends, and it was obvious that she needed this different group of friends, when she finally found them. I liked that it touches on what it’s like to be a queer teen of faith, because not enough YA books do that. And, of course, the fact that coming out isn’t a one-time done deal kind of thing. Joanna had been out most of her life, but as soon as she went back into the closet she saw the temptation to stay in there, how much easier life became when she pretended to be someone else, how people treated her differently based on just one aspect of her life. Coming out for the second time would be just as difficult as the first – perhaps even more difficult, because she knew more of what to expect by then.
While there are more queer YA titles out these days, there is still a huge need for more lesbian protagonists – not to mention queer characters of faith – and this book makes for a very welcome addition to my shelves.
Note: I received an ARC from Harper through work – thank you Molly, and Shan!