In 1977 North Carolina, a mutual crush is not so simple for seventh-grade girls Allie and Sam.
Following the death of her older brother, Allie and her mom leave New Jersey and Allie’s father behind. At her new school, Allie joins the newspaper staff and befriends charismatic, tomboyish Sam. When the girls’ feelings for each other bloom beyond friendship, they feel pressured to keep their secret from kids and adults who would think they’re “freaks.” The (nearly all-white) town’s animosity toward two lesbian teachers is a harrowing example for how some view same-sex relationships. The narrative leans into certain coming-out tropes, but Allie’s levelheaded narration is refreshingly nuanced. Hitchcock unflinchingly characterizes the emotional struggles of being young and lesbian; Allie feels shame for disappointing her mother and snaps a rubber band against her wrist whenever she thinks about kissing Sam, while for Sam it may never be safe to come out in her conservative Christian household. Throughout, Allie asks “hard questions” about whether homosexuality is right in the eyes of the Bible or her community. Ultimately and affirmingly, her adult role models encourage her to be true to herself.
A compelling and honest addition to the few existing stories about gay middle schoolers. (Historical fiction. 8-12)