by Nancy Garden
This groundbreaking book 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. The book has been banned from many school libraries and publicly burned in Kansas City.
Annie On My Mind is THE gay book. And I was lucky enough to get a chance to read and review it for an upcoming re-release. So with banned book week here, I sat down and read through this book finally.
We follow Liza and Annie in the year that they fell in love while Liza is looking back on the whole experience. It starts out sweet and wonderful, but trouble strikes when the two are caught together at Liza’s teachers’ house. Liza in turn is nearly expelled for simply being gay in the 1980’s. Luckily, she wasn’t, but the two teachers who are also gay lose their jobs at the school for the same issue.
All of which is still a nightmare for me, a gay genderfluid person. I grew up in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I witnessed a lot of homophobic behavior while it was still considered a mental illness. I grew up knowing it was ‘wrong’. Things have changed greatly, but with the current political climate, I fear that still that I could not be allowed to work in my dream job, a library, simply for being gay. It’s less likely now and I’m thankful for that every day, but this book simply reminded me of these old fears.
The story itself is sweet, though possibly a bit naive considering when this book takes place and where. Two girls falling deeply in love with each other and deciding that they rather not live in a make-believe world like they originally did, which seems a bit odd for actual college seniors to actually do. A lot of things like this haven’t aged too well with this book. It is a good book with a good message, but teens today are a lot different then they were and a lot would find that them living in their pretend worlds off.
There’s a lot that isn’t explained in this book that really should have been. Both Liza and Annie live in New York City during a time when Gay rights was huge, a long with the AIDs epidemic, neither of which are mentioned or even remotely acknowledged as being a thing. I realize that it’s possibly because during that time period the author might not have been part of it, but living in New York, you would think they would both know being gay is a thing and that the hysterical nature of the homophobia they face is partly due to the AIDs epidemic, not just the supposed ‘wrongness’.
Nowhere in the book does it mention the year, which leaves you think the author meant for it to be one of those books that are simply universal. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up that way anymore. For starters, payphones are no longer a thing, which get featured heavily in the book. Students would no longer nearly be expelled from school for being caught half naked with another girl outside of school, though even in this book its mentioned how wrong that it was in the first place Liza was going through it. I’ve had plenty of openingly gay teachers who haven’t lost their jobs for being gay, thankfully. My suggestion to fix the confusion would to be to add a forward to explain these things or somewhere just stick a date for readers to better understand that this takes place in our not so pleasant past.
The book might not have aged well, but the story is itself is still important. Everyone should understand how far we’ve come to be able to just marry our partners compared to nearly having your school career ruined for being gay. I think the story itself is good and sweet. Teens and everyone should be able to see what a healthy gay relationship looks like, even if its no always perfect.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to just read a good LGBTQA book that’s sweet and helps us better understand our past as well.
Rating: 3 stars