Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Annie On My Mind

Well for my first review I bring you Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden.

The book follows the story of Annie and (E)liza, two teenage girls from very different backgrounds from New York as they explore their feelings for one another. 

The book starts in a somewhat unassuming way as Liza sits in her room at MIT trying to get her mind straight about past events and just what Annie means to her. You get the slightly nasty feeling creeping up on you at this point that perhaps this might just end up as a depressing tale of lost love or a Sunset Boulevard style tale, yet the author manages to avoid this trap nicely as she just speeds on into the action of the main story, only dropping it back into the present at MIT after some major event in the storyline has occurred with each time having Liza work through her thoughts about it.

As with most LGBT fiction I've come across, the characters are remarkable in some way, having some skill that sets them apart from the crowd and enchants the other player in the romance of the novel, and Annie On My Mind is no exception to this apparent rule. The first time we are introduced to Annie in one of the many museums the pair visit during the course of the book she is singing beautifully, which just happens to grab Liza's attention. This sort of feature could easily be over done and ruin the feel of the novel as a whole, but Nancy Garden is able just to weave it into the background, making it more part of the character than a focus of the story, making the book feel far more well rounded and natural than it might have been if the point had been laboured. 

During the narrative the pairs relationship evolves, drawing them closer together until they are all but inseparable. The moment of their first kiss is so touching that it makes you long for the moment you too shared such an embrace, and although they both feel the same, that one moment sends them spiralling into confusion, not sure about their feelings they have or how to approach them but with them both still absolutely obsessed with one another. Their growing passion is cut through with school problems (as we all suffered in one form or another during our school years!) and the problems of just finding the space to express their love when they are constantly surrounded by people and like all teenagers, unable to break away to find that space.

As you might have expected, that space arrives but brings down the conflict element to the story, the religious school teachers both obsessed with the bible and the face of the school Liza attends. Their response to the girls makes you want to jump into the action and wring their necks, yet the author manages to convey not just the religious intolerance they have for the lesbian nature of the girls, but avoids overdoing it which is all too easily done to make them seem like the villain, but also manages to keep the characters humanity throughout, which just reminds you that they are not the black hat faceless villain of some cowboy movie.

All told, this novel although written for the teenage market is grown up in its approach to the themes it presents the reader, well crafted and superbly written, taking you a literal roller coaster of emotions through the course of the narrative. It leaves you wanting to know more and will bring you back to your teenage years and the way you felt about your first love.

Five stars.

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
ISBN: 978-0-374-40011-8

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