After the suicide of Jamie Ballard, a gay teen who was being bullied, two very different students at Southside High try to start a Gay-Straight Alliance.
Like other installments in the Surviving Southside series, this one delivers a short, focused plot without sacrificing characterization. Two different characters narrate alternating segments: golden-boy football player Scott King, who was Jamie’s best friend, and opinionated, out lesbian Carmen Mendoza. As Carmen and Scott try to collect the required number of petition signatures to create the club, each runs into obstacles. Scott’s football friends refuse to express interest in “that fag group,” and other students remember Scott’s own acts of bullying too keenly to trust him. Carmen, well-liked among a variety of social groups, encounters resistance among teachers, including a sinister assistant principal who subtly insults her in an effort to discourage her from starting the GSA. When the two finally unite, the club seems poised to get off the ground. A parent group’s last-minute intervention, however, puts the club on hold, a believable turn of events that nevertheless makes the story feel unresolved, particularly given that there is no indication that the new “neutrality policy” will be addressed in The Fight (2013), another Surviving Southside volume.
A brief, believable and sobering look into bullying and school bureaucracies. (Fiction. 12-16)