A novel with alternating narrators takes an unusually interesting twist due to one of the character’s habitual tendency toward self-delusion.
Self-proclaimed misfit and outspoken manifesto-author Jesse deals daily with the hazards of being out and proud in high school. She's also carrying on a secret affair with image-conscious Emily, the girlfriend of a popular boy at school. Meeting weekly in the bathroom of the local public library, the two experience an inexplicable chemistry, even though Emily will barely acknowledge Jesse at any other time. Switching perspective among Emily, Jesse and a third girl, Esther, this heartbreaking tale is powerfully raw in its exploration of attraction and shame. Jesse hides her relationship from her warmly quirky and accepting parents not because it is with a girl, but because she knows they will disapprove of its secrecy. Readers will ache for her, and they will be torn between rage and pity toward Emily, so intent on forcing herself into a normative role that she cannot admit the truth even to herself. Clever phrasing, a decided political bent against big-box stores and characters who gently poke fun at various stereotypes round out this work of contemporary fiction.
While in the end there are some plotlines left untied in slice-of-life fashion, the bittersweet resolution of the main conflict is deeply satisfying. (Fiction. 13 & up)