Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad.
Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?
I picked this book up almost a year ago in Gay’s the Word while on a tour around some of London’s bookshops, as I’d seen good things about it and it appealed to me! Although this book wasn’t perfect, it made for an enjoyable contemporary with some deep and meaningful discussions. This story follows Joanna, who moves from being out and proud in Atlanta to being in a much more conservative small town. Her dad is in a new marriage, and asks her to lie low for the last year of high school because of possible judgement from those in and around the family.
This story was a journey of self-discovery for Joanna, who initially feels her life is much easier pretending to be straight and therefore not being judged by everyone she meets. But then she meets Mary Carlson, who makes her question whether it’s really worth staying closeted for the sake of those around her. I really liked the message this book portrayed of having to come out more than once. This is something LGBTQIA+ people face every day, all of their lives. There is not just one big coming out and you’re done. There will be more places and more people and that will involve more worry and concern about how they may react and the judgement you might face. Joanna definitely faces coming-out more than once throughout the course of this book!
I want to feel proud and happy about my selflessness.
Joanna’s relationships with those around her really develop throughout this novel as she begins to question everything again, despite already having an out and proud life back in Atlanta. I really enjoyed Jo’s relationship with her new stepmother, and seeing how they connected throughout the story was so heartwarming. Although her dad was not without his problems, I really liked his willingness to understand his daughter at the end of it all.
Reading about a character with a connection to faith was really interesting and I don’t feel like it’s something we see a lot of in YA. Although I’m not religious myself, I didn’t feel like Joanna’s own views overpowered her story, or that I couldn’t relate to her as a character. Although I felt some of the characters were problematic, there is an undertone of acceptance that meant I couldn’t judge them as much as I felt I would have done in other situations.
But sadly, there is a few things I disliked about this book. The plot seemed far-fetched and frankly, I don’t know why Jo really followed along for so long with what her dad was asking of her. The situation her dad put her in also felt really unfair and made me feel quite uncomfortable at times. I also feel like the ending was rushed, not thought out, and that the character of Deirdre was unrealistic and lacking in any character development. It almost felt as though she was only placed into the end of the story to allow for the ending to happen the way it did, and was not really mentioned throughout the rest of the story or given any opportunity to be more than her actions in the scenes that showed up in the book.
But what happens when being selfless takes away a big part of your self?
Overall, this was a diverse contemporary with some hard hitting discussions that felt like they were handled fairly well. I’m glad I picked it up and I flew through it super fast, so if you’re looking for a quick but hard-hitting sapphic romance this one could be for you!
3.5 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽