Across the Page: Coming of Age and Coming Out

This month’s Across the Page features two novels that
focus on the complex, sometimes funny and usually terrifying experience of
coming out: Lauren Bjorkman’s My Invented
Life
and Paula Boock’s Dare, Truth or Promise.

My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman (Henry Holt)

Due out this fall, Lauren Bjorkman’s My Invented Life is a hilarious, thoughtful and engaging novel
about the power of perception.

Roz admires her older sister Eva so much that it borders on
envy.  Eva is a beautiful, sophisticated,
and popular cheerleader who’s dating Bryan,
Roz’s crush. But everything changes when
Roz discovers a “lesbian” novel in Eva’s room and becomes convinced that her
sister is gay.

Eva dismisses the idea and says that the book belongs to
“Eyeliner Andie,” a goth chic from the school play, As You Like It, that both sisters are working on. But Eva’s answers
to Roz’s questions are suspicious, particularly when the name of Carmen, her
best friend and cheerleading partner, comes up:

“‘As if a cheerleading babe could be a dyke,’” Eva says at
one point, and Roz notes that usually she would simply joke about the
accusation: “The old Eva would’ve made a joke of it. Now you know. Just between you and me and the tabloids, Britney Spears
and I are lovers.”

On the other hand, Roz has reasons for wanting to believe
that Eva is a lesbian. For one, she thinks it would make the family more interesting, and then, of course, there’s
her crush on Bryan.

Roz continues to pursue her suspicions. Part of her charm as
a narrator is not only that she is extremely funny, but that she makes a mess
of just about everything she touches. In an attempt to help Eva though the
difficult coming out process, Roz decides to tell everyone at school that she
herself is a lesbian. The announcement
ricochets through the theater group, especially after Roz gets the lead role of
Rosalind.

Though Eva is still unwilling to admit anything to her
sister, she watches the other students’ reaction to Roz’s “lesbianism” very
carefully. The lie actually begins to bring the competitive sisters closer as
Roz files briefings to Eva called the “L Reports.”

In the “reports,” Roz chronicles her experience at school
(student reactions, a surprising crush she develops on “Eyeliner Andie”) and
her research (reading coming out stories online and learning about the
challenges of gay teens). Her false coming out initially angered Eva, but it
eventually forces many of the characters’ secrets to come out of the closet.

Though My Invented
Life,
Bjorkman first novel, reveals the difficulties many LGBT teens face
at both school and home, it is ultimately an uplifting story that offers
insight and hope with a nice dash of humor. Highly recommended.

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