Pub. Date: 2016
Genres: Contemporary YA, Romance
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, and her radio evangelist father has been supportive. All of that changes when he remarries and they move to conservative Rome, Georgia. He asks her to do the impossible: to lie low for her senior year. After she reluctantly agrees, she falls for Mary Carlson, the sister of her new friend. She doesn’t want to break the promise to her dad, even if Mary might return her feelings. Maybe. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, by Jaye Robin Brown, shows characters openly being themselves and ties faith into loving everyone.
I found this book at a book sale last month, and I was happy to have enjoyed it so much. I blew through it over a few days. I like that religion is incorporated in a way to teach and to show love toward your fellow person. I haven’t seen much of it in my limited experience with LGBTQ literature.
Joanna Gordon and Mary Carlson are the primary characters because of the developing romance. Joanna, who prefers her Italian last name over Gordon, has agreed to go back in the closet in this new town with two goals in mind: a road trip and a chance at helping others in the way she has always wanted to. She even blends into the group of popular and religious girls of the school. Her struggles with her promises and telling the truth mix well with what she is trying to preach to everyone else. She has to come out multiple times and reintroduce herself to every person and community she goes to. Mary Carlson is a well-loved member of the local Baptist Church and a golf player. Joanna’s thoughts about Mary Carlson kept me guessing about what she was in for in their first weeks of friendship and then romantic relationship. I loved their relationship and kept rooting for them through everything. They are beautiful together. I also loved their dates. On a minor note, I had a few moments in the books where I was confused about who was talking.
While I am quick to say only Mary Carlson and Joanna developed, I know that Joanna’s parents and her new friends change their attitudes and behaviors. There is real growth in those characters with learning to be more accepting and to support others. Most of the development for her dad and Elizabeth. Her dad comes to realize what he has asked of his daughter, but I think his creation of the conflict was resolved a little too nicely. Joanna hates Elizabeth from the get-go, but I like that the book steers away from making her the evil stepmother and teaches Joanna to see her better for who she is. George and B.T.B., Mary Carlson’s elephant-loving brother, stay mostly unchanged, but this book focuses heavily on relationships between girls more than relationships between people of the opposite sex. I am unconvinced that Dana, Joanna’s best friend from Atlanta, has changed, but she is an important fixture in Joanna’s life.
The main problem with this book that keeps it from being five stars is that Joanna and her father’s relationship is a little strange throughout the book. I am not sure how it would have entered his head to ask her to lie low for a year, and I am annoyed at the adults who said they would talk to him about it but never seemed to. The worst bit is that the final result of their deal being broken struck me as unrealistic without a better understanding of who her father is as a person. I must be missing something about his character because I don’t understand why he behaved this way.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is a sweet romance and story of acceptance. I recommend this one for the issues it discusses and for the romance.