Teens at Texas’ ethnically diverse Southside High fight an anti-gay school policy after incidents of homophobic bullying.
When her teacher witnesses an act of anti-gay violence in the school hallway and refuses to intervene, Bella—short for Isabel—is horrified. Even though Dominic, the student being bullied, downplays the incident when Bella asks him about it, Bella feels called to action. When she decides to join the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, however, she discovers the club only exists unofficially. Zoe, one of the students involved, explains, “There’s something going on....The teachers are totally freaked out about anything having to do with gay people.” Readers who remember The Alliance (2013), set at Southside a year earlier, will recognize the district’s “neutrality policy” as the reason teachers refuse to intervene in homophobic bullying or even teach works by queer creators such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay or Aaron Copland. Here, Bella and Zoe uncover the policy and launch a community-wide battle against it. Although the story is bare-bones short, the characters are well-drawn, and there is room for nuance. Bella is interested in a female classmate, June, but what that means about her sexuality is left refreshingly ambiguous.
An inspiring tale, simply told. (Fiction. 12-16)