YA Audiobook Review: Annie On My Mind, by Nancy Garden
A couple of weeks ago I was looking for something to listen to, and noticed that Overdrive was announcing it was Banned Books Week, and had a separate section for books that had been banned. I leafed through, being taken aback at some of the books people have seen fit to object to, and noticed this book. I could tell it was about lesbian teens, though I was a bit slow to register that it was published in 1982, making it something of a classic.
Title: Annie On My Mind
Author: Nancy Garden; read by Rebecca Lowman
Publisher: Listening Library, 2008. Original, Farrar Strous Girroux, 1982 (234 pages).
Source: Library digital resources
Blurb (from Goodreads):
This groundbreaking book is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. The book has been banned from many school libraries and publicly burned in Kansas City.
Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.”
I didn't start listening to this right away, because I'm not a huge reader of YA. An obsession with love in most of those books puts me off a bit. But I wanted to listen to this, because I wanted to see how the subject was handled (even before I realized that this came out while I was--ahem--only a year or two older than the protagonists). Once I started listening, I found it hard to stop, and once I realized when it was written, I had to know what the author would dare to do.
The quote above about the "fluid, readable style" seems accurate to me. I found myself admiring the writing as well as being wholly caught up in the story. What saves this from being another teen-meets-teen story is, not just that the characters are gay, but that they don't know they are gay. So the reader knowingly watches them falling in love, while they think they are just having a grand friendship. I was wholly caught up in the story from the first chapter.
Some aspects of the book are dated: laws today protect students and teachers from discipline on the basis of their private lives (though I may also be deluded by living in a place where being gay is nothing remarkable). But the struggle of the two to come to terms with their own feelings, especially when they seem to bring the world crashing down around them, feels human and universal, and as relevant today as in 1982. Even better is the author's determination that this would have a happy ending, as almost no books about gay people had before she wrote. It is a happy ending that the characters earn, which makes it even better in my mind.
The reading by Rebecca Lowman is a marvelous addition to the story as well. She voices the characters well, and her voice seems to bring the story to life. I can definitely recommend the audio book.
Worth a read for historical value, but also worth a read for teens, gay or straight. Because the book does frankly discuss sexual feelings and desires, though there are no graphic scenes, it is probably not suitable for pre-teens.
FTC Disclosure: I checked Annie On My Mind out of my digital library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."