Title: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
Author: Joyce Robin Brown
Publisher: Harper Teen, 2016
Themes: lesbians, LGBTQIA, Georgia, balancing gay orientation and faith, step moms, changing friendships
“COME ON EILEEN” is a terrible song at any wedding. But when the wedding is being held at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta—the bride’s overpriced choice—one might expect better tunes, even if they are being spun for my dad’s evangelical masses.
Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right? (Goodreads).
Why I like this book:
GEORGIA PEACHES is the lesbian feel-good equivalent of SIMON Vs THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. It is romantic, funny and smart. It also addresses an area in which I hope we will see many more contemporary gay YA novels, balancing one’s faith withe one’s gender orientation, especially in more conservative enclaves of the US. There’s so much authenticity in the complexity of characters and choices. Jo’s pastor dad is completely accepting of her as a lesbian BUT still asks her to hide it for her senior year in Rome Georgia where he has moved with his third wife and Jo because of succumbing to in-law pressure.
“Rome, Georgia, is definitely where queer girls go to die.”
All the characters in this story are three dimensional like this, complex and authentic as they navigate their worlds and issues. Jo tries to balance her love for her dad, her faith, her gay identity, her commitment to her best friend in Atlanta and her new feelings for Mary Carlson, who may or may not be gay. She is not always sweet peaches and can be sassy and sulky as well as sweet and understanding. Her hots for her new friend and her empathy for Mary Carlson’s special needs twin brother are the emotional heart of this novel for me, as well as her commitment to her faith and objectivity about her best (gay) friend in Atlanta, Dana, who’s life’s a train wreck yet Jo still stands by her.
All the characters are compelling from the not so nasty step-mom to the gaggle of Baptist youth group friends and geeky George who gets ragged for having two moms. While bigotry and homophobia are touched upon, this novel is much more a celebration of gay Christians and cool instead of the perennial mean girl friends.
Jo’s voice and self acceptance rings true from the opening chapter and feels authentic given her father’s support. They gay best friends dynamic between Jo and Dana also rings true as so often queer people do find each other. It is awesome to have such a strong confident out lesbian from the get go in a story and the development of the F/F romance is adorable. While this is a romance that anyone queer or straight teen would enjoy, it will have particular appeal to young people trying to express their LGBTQIA identity in their faith communities.