Wednesday, September 23, 2009

a broader view

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction, YA
Challenge: Banned Books 2009
Review: First, an article about an effort to ban this book in Oklahoma.

My response: I can't claim to be shocked that this book was challenged, since it does deal with teenage girls questioning and discovering their sexuality, but as always I'm disappointed when people choose to bury their heads in the sand rather than accepting that people are different, and choosing to recognize a book that deals with real issues in a sensitive and realistic manner.

I thought that Johnson approached her subject matter in an interesting way. Rather than just focusing on the one character who winds up coming out, and her struggle to come to terms with her own sexuality, Johnson sets her story within a group of 3 girls. When one of the girls goes away for the summer before their senior year of high school, the other two find themselves in a "more than friends" situation. Johnson sympathetically relates the story of any two people who try to negotiate going from being friends to having a romantic relationship, and possibly back again. Teenagers can definitely relate to this story, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Added to that well-drawn story, Johnson also gives us the third girl in the triangle, who comes home from her summer away and finds herself in the middle of the complicated relationship of her two best friends, while at the same time dealing with issues surrounding her own new long-distance relationship.

One criticism I have is that the characters weren't all that well-drawn. I had trouble at the beginning distinguishing the three main characters, and even after I could remember who was who, they all seemed a little fuzzy around the edges. None of the secondary characters were particularly clear either. In a book that is largely character driven, I wanted to get a better sense of the characters outside of the particular conflicts they were facing.

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