Julie Anne Peters — Keeping You a Secret

This book is about a girl named Holland Jaeger, who realizes her senior year in high school that she’s a lesbian. Up until this point, she’s had it all: she’s on the swim team; she’s president of the student body; she’s relatively popular, intelligent, and has a steady boyfriend. When she realizes that she’s falling in love with a girl, it turns her world upside down. She finds out who her true friends are, who will accept her for who she is and who won’t.

This book is both heartwarming and sad. I got so angry reading some sections of it. I felt myself reacting along with the characters in the book when they got hurt, betrayed or treated like crap. Yes, there is hate in this book, but there is also love and acceptance and so much joy. I read this book in two days. I stayed up late reading it. I didn’t want to put it down. I know I’ll wonder about these characters for a while, wonder what happened to them after the book ended. I give this book four stars out of five. I really enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for teens who enjoy LGBT literature or also books about finding out what’s in your heart and following it no matter how the people around you react.

Jenny Han — The Summer I Turned Pretty

This book is the perfect Young Adult summer read. It’s set in the summer at a beach house where Belly, the book’s main character, spends all of her summers growing up. This book is, more than anything else, a coming of age story. It’s the summer Belly realizes that, like the title says, she’s finally pretty. She is almost sixteen years old, and she has her whole life ahead of her.

I devoured this book, remembering again my first love, first kiss, first time holding hands. This book made me nostalgic, and it also made me smile (granted, there were tears too, but most of the book was bubbly and fun). If you’re looking for a girly, beachy read with plenty of laughs and a casual, laid-back plot, this is the book for you. It’s also the first book in a trilogy, which is now sold in a one volume set, so if you think you’ll be interested in Belly’s two summers after this one, you may want to pick up the three books in one instead.

when he shucks me

For 3 years, we have lived
3,000 miles apart.
 
Every day, California calls me
or I call him,
and the distance shucks off
like the green
that blankets an ear of corn. 

For a couple of years, 
I lived for that shucking, 
lived for the moments
when the miles fell away
and I was no longer
just an East coast girl. 

I was his girl, his princess, 
the lady of his heart.
 
More than that, I was bare 
as one of those ears of corn, 
exposed and vulnerable, 
ready to be eaten 
or devoured. 

Here I am, I felt like saying, 
when what I really said 
was a simple hello. 

Through words and letters, 
we wove our dreams together, 
pretending we wove our lives. 

Twice he flew out to see me, 
and for a few short days
my life was all puffy clouds
and daydreams 
only I wasn't dreaming. 

I'd pinch myself 
after he kissed me, 
leaving little crescents 
from my fingernails 
in the fleshy part of my arm. 

Now it has been two years
since we've made love, 
two years since anyone 
has kissed me
the way he kissed me, 
his hands cupping my face, 
his whole mouth drinking me in. 

I don't dare say 
we're growing apart, 
but when he shucks me now, 
the green no longer
all falls off. 

California, my California, 
you've never seemed
so far away.

halfway to the dairy farm

You are poetry--
your words distilled,
your personality fiery 
with a fierceness
that I both love
and fear. 

Elusive, I find you 
in the briefest moment
between sunset and full dark
when the sky's inky violet. 

Far off down 
my one lane country road,
a pair of headlights
comes careening. 

I step off to the side
step into the rows of corn
and hide until the lights
flash by me, 
standing in the high corn
until my eyes readjust
and I hear the car
backfire as it rides the bend. 

I'm halfway to the dairy farm
a mile down the road.
The sycamores are white as bone. 
Above and between them, 
bats slash the summer air 
with their chaotic flight,
diving and twirling 
dark shadows that dip 
too close about my head. 

It is summer and you, 
you are oil to my water, 
rising--always rising
above.

a person of letters

Today is a slouchy sort of day, the type of day when the heat slumps over on you like a drunk person who falls asleep next to you on a train. Not that I’ve ever had a drunk person fall asleep on my shoulder. But somewhere, years ago, someone did fall asleep on me, and I imagine the heat to feel something like that weight and also the caution with which I sat still so as not to wake him.

I’m reading more lately, learning words like outsize and tumid, words that are large and swollen, words you can use to describe a sex scene if you want to put a literary spin on it. I read as a sort of shield, a way of lying to myself that I’m actually working on my writing by seeing what other people have written. I tell myself that I’m contributing to society by reading books, by slowly eating my way through them the way I’d want someone to devour something, anything, that I wrote.

I write here because I don’t have anyone to write letters to. If I could have any little thing right now, I think I would choose to have someone with whom to exchange letters, someone with whom I could exchange book reviews and scraps of poetry, postcards and drafts of short stories. I fantasize that I will miraculously turn into a person of letters (whatever that means) simply by writing this nonexistent writer friend of mine over and over again for decades on end. In my mind, this person is someone whose brilliance is underestimated, someone whose work I would read with delight, exclaiming over all the sections in which I could see myself.

It’s silly, isn’t it? To wish for someone to write letters to when no one writes letters anymore. We blog. We text. We email every now and then when we can’t get away with sending a series of texts. But we hardly ever, practically never, get out a piece of paper and a pen and sit down and write someone a letter. It used to be that I could recognize my friends’ handwriting. Now I rarely know what any of their handwriting looks like. If I close my eyes, I can still recall Amy’s bubbly letters, Christina’s blocky text, Ethan’s messy script. I’m not in touch with any of them anymore, but I still remember the way their writing looked on a page.

When I hold a pen now, my hand cramps up. I have been unused to writing by hand, everything being letters on a screen. But on this humid day, I want nothing more than to go down to the end of the driveway and look into my box and find a letter from a friend. I want to curl up in front of the air conditioner with a glass of sweet tea and savour each paragraph that my friend wrote. Alas, no friends of mine write letters. The box, when I checked it, was full of junk mail and magazines, and I remain very much not a lady of letters.