Sunday, September 6, 2009

Love & Lies by Ellen Wittlinger

Love & Lies (2008) is the sequel to Hard Love, which was published in 1999. In Hard Love, sixteen-year-old John deals with his broken family life by writing a zine and falls in love with another writer, Marisol, who is a lesbian. Love & Lies starts four months after the first book ended and picks up Marisol's story. It isn't necessary to have read the first book to enjoy the second, but the first one is really too good to miss.

The second one is also too good to miss. It's the kind of book that exemplifies why I love teen novels: an invigorating immersion into what it feels like to grow up. Marisol's voice rings true as an 18-year-old lesbian, out for two years. Her repartee is witty and self-assured but readers are witness to her inner doubts. She negotiates the minefields of love and friendships as best she can, sometimes making mistakes.

Marisol's roommate Birdie is a gay guy who brings home strays of all sorts, including a new boyfriend, Damon. Damon is still figuring out his sexuality. Marisol's mother, Helen, is active in PFLAG. Helen invites Birdie and Damon to a family supper and quizzes Damon about how supportive his family is about his being gay, offering to advocate if necessary:

'Finally, Birdie interrupted her. "Helen, Damon is bisexual. At the moment."
"Well, isn't that wonderful!" my wacky mother announced.
Dad was bustling in by then. "Hello, sorry I'm late." He crossed to my chair and gave me a brisk cheek kiss, the only kind I'd ever gotten from him. "Hello Birdie. Glad you could all come," he said, without actually looking at either Birdie or Damon. "What have I missed?"
"Not much," I said. "Mom was just about to ask Damon for the details of his bisexuality."
Dad and Damon both took on a greenish pallor.
"I was not!" Mom said. "Marisol, you're terrible!"
"She is, Helen," Birdie agreed. "Our girl is very bitter these days. Methinks she needs to find herself a girlfriend." '

Easier said than done, especially when the one Marisol wants is not the girl who falls in love with her.

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