Author: Nancy J. Hedin
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publication Date: 8. May 2017
Rating: 1./5. Stars
Diversity: LGBT Characters, Neurodiversity
TW: suicide, disgusting treatment of mental health issues, spousal abuse, religious homophobia, q slur, d slur
Summary: Lorraine Tyler is the only queer person in Bend, Minnesota. Or at least that’s what it feels like when the local church preaches so sternly against homosexuality. Which is why she’s fighting so hard to win the McGerber scholarship — her ticket out of Bend — even though her biggest competition is her twin sister, Becky. And even though she’s got no real hope — not with the scholarship’s morality clause and that one time she kissed the preacher’s daughter.
Everything changes when a new girl comes to town. Charity is mysterious, passionate, and — to Lorraine’s delighted surprise — queer too. Now Lorraine may have a chance at freedom and real love.
But then Becky disappears, and Lorraine uncovers an old, painful secret that could tear the family apart. They need each other more than ever now, and somehow it’s Lorraine — the sinner, the black sheep — who holds the power to bring them together. But only if she herself can learn to bend.
Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I read the summary of this book I thought we would get a book about a girl growing up in a small town dealing with prejudice there. And until halfway through the novel that’s what it is. It is about Lorraine dealing with her family’s homophobia, with their constant use of slurs against her, with the small town prejudice and homophobic preachers, but also with falling in love with another non-straight girl, with wanting to get out of this town but also fearing that she will never be able to. So far, so good, we do get what the Summary promised. And would that have been all of the story I could have really enjoyed it.
For me, the romance felt overly rushed especially in the beginning, and then just weird with certain obstacles that got in their way, so there wasn’t as much build up as I would have liked. But it was still nice and I could probably have enjoyed this book quite a bit. I was actually really interested in Lorraine and how she would deal with all the shit she’s facing and like I said for a while that actually worked.
However, the rest of the book is terrible. The dark family secret? The MC’s sister has schizophrenia. She beats herself thinking God is telling her to do it. She thinks her husband is possessed by Satan and takes refuge in a house for battered women. She gets hospitalized, she comes back out, she tries to kill her own son, she commits suicide in a gruesome and horrifying way. And then? A happy ending. Lorraine only griefs shortly and moves on and finally finds happiness as well. There is no talk about how terrible that must have been for her sister. How hard it must be for her mother to lose a daughter, except for her to reconnect with her own mother. Nothing about the boyfriend who lost his wife. Nothing at all about the sisters own life and how she felt. Nothing about how mentally ill people deserve agency and not to be used as cheap plot devices! Mentally ill people are not a plot device to shock others or to further a neurotypical character’s life. Their suicides are not for not mentally ill people to learn from!
I tried to take some time between reading the book and writing the review because after I read it, I was so upset I couldn’t calm down for ages. And even now, a few days later, just thinking about this book and its terrible treatment of mental illness makes me sick to the stomach.