In her debut for teens, Mason pens a novel about small-town longings and circumstances compelling a young person to find a safe place to simply be.
Protagonist 15-year-old Josie, a young white lesbian from tiny Virginia Falls, Minnesota, applies to tony Brookwood Academy in Connecticut as an escape for her and her abused girlfriend, Annette, also white. In a delightful step forward from the standard coming-out novel, Josie and Annette are comfortably and actively sexual with each other. Their relationship shifts at Brookwood, both from external (peer pressure, high academic expectations) and internal (nascent alcohol abuse) sources. Josie and Annette are both given the grace of flaws, foibles, and fleshed-out characterization, as are Josie’s roommate and other secondary characters. Even a minor character, a working-class white “townie,” extends compassion, wise words, and food to Josie as she grapples with Brookwood’s upper-class expectations. But even as the author writes a solid conversation among Josie and her classmates about anthropology’s colonialist roots, unfortunately she doesn't do so well with characters of color. One Asian-American student in particular seems mostly reduced to stereotypical attributes: fluent in five languages and eschewing group fun for Latin test prep. Beyond another Asian student and an “olive-skinned [girl] with dark eyes and a round face,” no other students of color are described or even noted in the book.
Based on the author's own experiences in boarding school, a landmark lesbian love story set in a narrow slice of white privilege. (Fiction. 12-16)