Teen lesbians fight for acceptance in a small town.
In her debut novel, award-winning poet Rebele-Henry (Autobiography of a Wound, 2018, etc.) gives the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice a modern twist, situating the timeless tale of forbidden heterosexual love in present-day rural Texas. The protagonists are best friends fated with the misfortune of being raised in a place where being gay is “considered more offensive than any other sin.” Growing up poor, scarred by a birth defect, and raised by her widowed grandmother, who’s always resented that her daughter left her with a 2-year-old, 16-year-old Raya’s “obsessing over staying invisible” is only compounded when she realizes she’s gay and that her attraction for her best friend, Sarah, a preacher’s daughter, is requited. After the true nature of their relationship is painfully made public, the teens’ conservative families send them away for religious conversion therapy designed to “cure” their gayness. At the remote, prisonlike facility, Raya and Sarah band with other banished queer youths as they are subjected to hard labor and horrifying, identity-erasing treatments. Once desperate for acceptance of their sexual orientation, Raya and company now find themselves fighting for their lives. What the plot-propelled narrative lacks in thematic nuance it makes up for with probing character development, offering readers harrowing lessons in self-reliance. Characters default to white.
A bold, graphic tale about the costs of exclusion. (index of characters) (Fiction. 13-18)