As the national gay rights battle heats up in the summer of 1977, two high school girls from disparate California communities are paired in a pen pal assignment.
Tammy Larson is from a conservative Christian community in Orange County. She is forced by her family to participate in activities in support of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay rights crusade in Florida. Tammy knows she is gay and fears the wrath of her Aunt Mandy, a church leader. Sharon Hawkins lives with her mother and brother in San Francisco. She is keeping her brother’s gay identity a secret while also trying to figure out her feelings for her boyfriend—and for girls. The book’s structure includes Tammy’s and Sharon’s letters interspersed with Sharon’s diary entries and Tammy’s unmailed letters to her idol, gay rights leader Harvey Milk. The girls’ growing trust in each other makes Sharon’s home the logical place for Tammy to flee following a crisis at home. The author expertly brings to life the pre-AIDS world of San Francisco’s gay neighborhoods, the vitality of the nascent gay rights movement (including welcome details about the often overlooked lesbian community), and the punk rock scene. The book’s strengths include good pacing, a respectful acknowledgment of bisexuality, and satisfying personal and political denouements. Both girls are white; there is ethnic diversity in secondary characters.
This queer novel stands out thanks to the 1970s San Francisco setting and punk vibe. (Historical fiction. 13-18)