Bex struggles to find acceptance for her nontraditional gender expression and her sexual orientation within her family and within the doomsday survivalist community she longs to join.
Since she’s been at odds with her family over her survivalist interests in addition to her masculine appearance, her father’s and brother’s decisions to join a new survivalist organization surprise Bex. Joining them on visits to the organization’s developing compound, Bex finds that her desire for fellowship overrides her concerns about some members’ misogyny, homophobia, and racism (which suggests that the majority of the novel’s cast is white). Even as her brother’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and aggressive, Bex is unwilling to consider the community’s potential dark side. She’s also distracted when Lucy arrives for the summer and presents Bex with her first opportunity for a lesbian relationship (though it remains a secret from other characters). Readers of all sexual orientations will relate to Bex’s intoxicated blend of nerves and anticipation regarding Lucy. Many will also understand her instinctive motivation to maintain relationship harmony by minimizing her survivalist activities—though ultimately this becomes impossible. And then, quite suddenly, Bex can’t avoid facing the dark truths of her family and chosen community. Kokie takes her time developing characters and setting the plot in motion, creating a believable lesbian protagonist who wants to belong to a world that doesn’t particularly want her.
A hard, cleareyed look at coming of age in a prejudiced world. (Fiction. 14-18)