Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: grl2grl, by Julie Anne Peters

Photo by ilouque

grl2grl is a collection of short stories about LGBT characters, mostly girls, hence the title, grl2grl. There are ten stories in the collection, and each is very different from the next, dealing with a range of issues, from coming out to being dumped, abuse to abstinence-only education. I often describe short stories as being either complete stories or snapshots from a character's life, and there are both kinds here. Julie Anne Peters tries to give each character a distinct personality, and I think that she succeeded, although the narrative styles are quite similar in some of the stories.

My favourites were 'Can't Stop The Feeling', which is about a girl who is trying to pluck up the courage to go to a meeting of the Gay/Straight Alliance group at her school, 'TIAD', about a girl who has just been dumped and goes online to a chatroom for advice and companionship, a story I really liked as I thought it was quite original - and 'Two-Part Invention', about a violinist who's in love with the cellist she plays with at summer music camp. I just love musician stories.

I don't think that every story should have had a dramatic impact - the presence of happy endings and sad endings and ambiguous endings makes the collection more interesting - but some of the stories I liked less were a bit too much like a tiny snippet from a life, with nothing really happening in them. Overall, however, the insight into the minds of the characters was compelling and sometimes really affecting.

It's a very American book, a lot of the things referred to don't really exist this side of the pond - I have only heard of a couple of schools with Gay/Straight Alliance groups here, and there are only a couple of summer camp organisations. But if you've watched American teen movies then this shouldn't cause much of a problem.

I think that in a perfect world, every library would have a copy of grl2grl. I think it's one of those books with the power to make troubled teenagers feel as if they're not alone, and as the stories are indeed short, it would be great for reluctant readers. My only complaint would be that it's such a skinny little volume, and it left me wanting to read more from the author. But that's fine, as she's already written novels!

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