Two lesbian teens with very different backgrounds meet at a writers’ retreat.
Tess is a poor, white Franco-American farm girl from a New Hampshire military family, an author of fan fiction who hopes to gain confidence before her West Point interview. Soph is an extremely rich, white, unwilling debutante from Manhattan, a poet aiming to impress the program director for her own college applications. Soph is out and proud, loudly political about feminism and the political imperative for everyone to claim their sexuality; Tess is closeted, unable to risk coming out before she’s safely in the military. At the weeklong Young Women’s Writing Conference, they grapple with social justice, writing, their own maturity, and first love. A transphobic attendee threatens a friend’s safety, and though both protagonists learn to act as allies, the trans character looks out for herself, showing the cis girls the limits of their good intentions. Analogies between language and human interaction abound; one lovely vignette shows several girls offering different names for bread rolls from their own cultural backgrounds. Nuance is at the core of their journeys: context matters, and real leadership is harder than simply condemning those who make harmful choices. Unrealistically crafted dialogue is a distraction. An opening note directs interested readers to an online list of trigger warnings.
In a narrative where learning a writer’s craft fuels each coming-of-age, the clear literary metaphors for diversity, tradition, and modernity are both thematic and thoroughly satisfying. (Fiction. 13-17)