I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Albert Whitman & Company on September 1, 2013
Genres: LGBTQ, Young Adult
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As if starting high school weren't bad enough, Reyna Fey has to do so at a new school without her best friends. Reyna's plan is to keep her head down, help her father recover from the car accident that almost took his life, and maybe even make some friends. And then Olive Barton notices her. Olive is not exactly the kind of new friend Reyna has in mind. The boys make fun of her, the girls want to fight her, and Olive seems to welcome the challenge. There's something about Olive that Reyna can't help but like. But when Reyna learns Olive's secret, she must decide whether it's better to be good friends with an outcast or fake friends with the popular kids. . . .before she loses Olive forever.
Trigger warnings for Suicide, Homophobia, and Alcohol
Promise Me Something is an uncomfortable book to read. There were parts where I had to put my book down and take a couple deep breaths because it was so hard, times when I was almost crying. And that is why this book is so important.
Reyna is an ordinary girl. She’s had a rough life, with her mom dying in a car accident when she was only 7 and her dad almost dying in a car accident not even a year ago. Plus there’s the part where her dad is moving on with his new girlfriend, Lucy, and to top it all off she can’t go to school with her friends anymore thanks to a zoning issue. So now Reyna has to go to a brand new school with no friends in sight.
And that’s when Olive befriends Reyna. Olive is the strange, quiet, loner girl who is much more angry and honest than anyone would believe. And while Reyna’s not sure what they do is fun, they are friends. They bond over the difficulties of parents, their first time getting drunk, and just being the social outcasts. Which is fine until Reyna learns that Olive is a lesbian. And like an ordinary girl who has never thought much about it, never been around it, she doesn’t react well. This is when their friendship breaks off.
What makes this book so uncomfortable to read is the casual homophobia. It was quick to pick up on when the History teacher is making fun of the gay student in the class, and the uncomfortable feeling continues to build up. Olive has been chatting with other people online in an LGBTQ chat room, and she’s helped talk people out of committing suicide before. Let’s be honest here and look at the facts: LGBTQ youth are at a much higher risk for suicide. And this is because of the homophobia, and the casual homophobia.
And that is why it’s so important to read this book. Reyna could be just about anyone. At 14 or 15 a lot of kids haven’t really formed their own opinions. They’ll repeat what they’ve been told, sure, and like Reyna they’ll reflect what people around them say, but to have their own opinions and be willing to stand up and defend them? That isn’t so common. It’s why it’s so easy for readers to see a bit of themselves in Reyna.
But Reyna goes a step further. She learns that she does have an opinion, and she defends it. She ensures that the homophobic teacher resigns, she ensures that the public news knows what is going on, and she stands up against the blatant homophobia in her school. She loses a few friends along the way, but what she has done is much more important. And if readers could see a bit of themselves in Reyna before, then hopefully her story can inspire them to be as brave and strong as she learns to be in the end.
I don’t think I could read this again, but I would highly recommend it. Do you read uncomfortable books? Why or why not?