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Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown - Review

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it from Amazon a couple of years ago but hadn't got round to it before now. 

What's it about? Just before the beginning of the novel Jo is living in Athens, Georgia, with her dad, an evangelical preacher, and is an out lesbian. She spends her time having fun with her friend Dana, also a lesbian, and making out with girls in bathrooms. Then her dad marries Elizabeth, his third wife, and the family move to Rome, Georgia, which is a much smaller and more conservative town. 

Jo's dad and Elizabeth - who she rudely refers to as Three - ask Jo if she will consider staying incognito for her senior year of high school, by not being out as gay and by changing herself to fit in. In return they say she can go on a trip in the summer with Dana that she's always wanted to take, and her dad says she can start a youth radio show alongside his ministry where she can talk about sexuality and faith. 

Jo agrees, so when she starts school she introduces herself as Joanna. She meets Barnum, a junior with a developmental disability, and from there his twin sister, Mary Carlson. Mary Carlson is popular and beautiful, has a clique of popular and beautiful friends, and is straight, right? Preppy Joanna fits in just fine with this clique, and all of a sudden life is, in one way, a lot simpler. Joanna even has a pretend boyfriend, George, who has lesbian moms. 

But then she and Mary Carlson start to fall in love, and Jo doesn't tell her that this isn't all brand new ground for her as it is for Mary Carlson. Everything starts to go wrong and Jo doesn't know what to do to save it. 

There's a lot I did like about this book. I liked the environment of the small town and church where everyone knew each other's business. I liked Jo's relationship with her dad, and how her relationship with her stepmum grows throughout the book. I liked Jo and her relationships with her new friends in Rome, I thought these were really cute. I liked the romance and I liked how the girls were with each other. I also liked that it's quite explicit. I liked that Jo has faith and reconciles that with being gay. I liked the conservative thinking of some of Jo's family; it felt very real. 

However. There was lots I didn't like. I didn't really understand why Jo didn't just explain the situation to Mary Carlson and ask her to keep it to herself. It would've been so much better than lying to her. I understood why Mary Carlson was so annoyed! 

I didn't like how Barnum could literally only talk about elephants. I understood that this was what he liked most, but it made him quite one dimensional and I felt Jo patronised him quite a lot. 

I didn't like Dana - I didn't understand why Jo liked her so much or all the fun they had had beforehand. We were supposed to believe that Jo did what she did partly because she wanted to go away with Dana so badly after they'd finished school, but it just didn't feel very real to me. Jo made a ton of stupid decisions that just annoyed me, too. 

I would read something else by the same author, and I'm really glad this book exists, but I didn't love it. 

What age range is it for? 15+, I think 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes. There's quite a lot of homophobia too, which is done well, if painfully. 

Are any main characters people of colour? One of their friends, Gemma, is black, but it isn't really explored fully, although her relationship with a white boy is mentioned 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Barnum, yes, and as I've said, I don't think it was very well done. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's somewhat explicit 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so. 

Is there any talk of death? A bit, but nothing explicit or gory. 

Are there swear words? Yes! I really liked this! There's even the c word used extremely judiciously. 

What criticisms do I have? I think I've said them all. It could have been better. 

Would I recommend the book? If you like LGBTQ+ YA fiction then yes, absolutely, add it to the books you've read. If you're not familiar with LGBTQ+ YA, there are better examples out there, I think. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, I bought it for Janet in our book swap as it was on her wishlist, and I realised I'd been meaning to get around to it for ages and hadn't. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me a LOT of Dress Codes for Small Towns which is, frankly, better. 

How many stars? 3 and a half out of five. 

Where is the book going now? I'll probably keep it

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