Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom, Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin; Walker Childrens, 2013.
Ever since reading a number of news stories about courageous young lesbians fighting for their right to attend prom over the last few years, (we still love you, Constance!), I’ve been waiting for this book to be written. (Julie Anne Peters also released a prom related novel last year, It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It).) As an educator, there’s something that just really gets me about these stories, something that’s emblematic of way too many stories about education in general: the students are the ones being brave and level-headed, and it’s the adults that rise to staggering levels of cruel, embarrassing stupidity. Even today, we are dealing with the fallout of Indiana special education teacher calling for a straight-only prom in her town, admitting that she believes gays are worthless human beings. Keep it classy, adults! (If it makes you feel better, the school district itself has been behaving wonderfully, and liking this Facebook page supporting the inclusive prom, which now has over 27,000 likes, may help boost your faith in humanity a little.)
But back to the book at hand: This story is alternately told through Tessa’s point of view and that of her best friend, Lucas. They’ve been friends since they were tikes, to the point where they know everything about each other, except for a few small things. Luke has no clue that Tessa’s gay, and Tessa has no idea that Luke is in love with her. Whoops! This all comes to a head when Luke decides to make a sweeping declaration. He not only asks her to prom, he asks her to prom via the huge reader board at Tessa’s parents’ grocery store, where they both work in their small Midwestern town, for all to see as they drive boy. Oh boy, Luke. Sweet, sweet, unknowing Luke.
The reader board incident pushes Tessa to finally come clean and tell the world that she not only doesn’t want to go to the prom with Luke (no offense, bro) but that she wants to go to the prom with a girl, if that’s okay. Which, of course, ends up being really not okay, apparently. Tessa, not necessarily wanting to start a movement or anything, just wanting to stop lying to the people she loves most, doesn’t even know what an uproar she’s unwittingly created until her locker starts getting vandalized and the picketers start showing up in front of her parents’ store. The worst part of all is that Luke isn’t speaking to her, and for a minute, appears to be on the side of the picketers.
While Tessa does have a somewhat tenuous relationship with a girl, the real story of the book is her and Luke’s friendship, and in a way, I found that refreshing. Not everyone’s first relationship is all consuming (as in Rage), and not everyone just happens to luckily be surrounded by a bunch of other queers (Boyfriends With Girlfriends). Sometimes, especially in a town town, the biggest part of coming out for a teen is ensuring that you’re still okay with your old, straight friends that always knew you the best, and they’re okay with you.
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom ends on a hopeful note, yet one that’s not entirely perfect, either, which I respect. Although actually, whether it is perfect or not might be up for debate, but I can’t spoil everything, so you’ll have to read it yourself to see what you think.
While these three books are ones I’ve been meaning to review for a while, I plan on getting back to a more normal schedule with this column, and reviewing some of the Stonewall winners from this year, along with other newer titles, very soon!