I remember my friend April reading and re-reading aloud the ending of Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret to a group of us on the playground in sixth grade. All the girls squealed, but I was just confused. Where was my period? Why wasn't I special? When I went to high school, things didn't change much. I was still hanging with the ladies, and now I had a huge boner for the captain of the football team. Why didn't he love me? Why did he love that cheerleading bitch? High school sucked. It sucked for everybody, in a myriad of ways. Pizza-face, weakling, nerd, slut, fag... everybody had their soft spot and being a teenager magnified every thing by five hundred.
Julie Anne Peters knows her shit. Her novel for young adults, Keeping You a Secret, is a lovingly written first person account of coming out in high school. Holland Jaeger is a typical senior, balancing sports, homework, college applications and a boyfriend. Then one day, a new girl appears at school, Cece Goddard, strutting down the halls wearing a t-shirt proclaiming, "OUT! and PROUD!" Within a few weeks Holland is skipping out on her friends and avoiding her sex-obsessed boyfriend to drive across the city in an ice storm to hang out with Cece. Peters handles all this with care. Her writing conveys the palpable frustration, confusion and excitement of the love that dare not speak its name in high school. Things get political when Cece wants to organize a GLBT group at the conservative suburban high school. The story skirts melodrama, but keeps the action flowing, like a "very special episode" of Dawson's Creek, but better.
The best part of Keeping You a Secret is that it was published at all, an event that wouldn't have happened even ten years ago. A teenage lesbian love story where the main character doesn't commit suicide is a major step forward, in the vein of the children's book, Heather has Two Mommies. I plan on sending a copy to the library of the small rural high school where I grew up, with the hopes that some baby dyke or sad gay-boy finds it, reads it, and learns they're not alone. BRIAN BRAIT