With London Pride being yesterday I thought that time was right to finally review this Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash.
Maggie is fifteen and has basically spent every summer of her life at one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, where her days are full of a pleasant, peaceful sort of nothing. Until one confounding moment of innocent physical contact catapults her into gut-twisting love with Erin, an older, wiser, and surprisingly – at least to Maggie – female counselor. When it seems as if Erin might feel the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for either Maggie or Camp Bellflower to endure, let alone understand.
Maggie Thrash is a staff writer for Rookie, a popular online magazine for teenage girls. This is her first book. She lives in Delaware.
Honor Girl was first published in 2015 and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.
What I thought
This is a non-fiction book, based on true events and is presented as a graphic novel. It is about a girl discovering her sexual attraction to another, older girl at summer camp.
I thought it was excellently done and a great use of the genre. The book is illustrated in watercolour pencil and pen images which were finished digitally and even the font was designed by Maggie. The art is fairly simplistic but there’s something powerful in its simplicity especially in the close up images like below.
I’ve seen some criticism of the ‘ending’ but I really liked the fact that is was realistic. Nothing against fictional coming out stories but the happily ever after they often portray does not often represent the stories of many teens in this situation. I also thought Maggie’s confliction was represented powerfully.
I read some of the one star reviews of this book on goodreads and whilst I agree with some of the concerns highlighted over this being about a relationship between an older 19 year old camp counselor and a 15 year old girl I can’t help but wonder how vehemently those concerns would be expressed if the counselor had been male and the 15 year old female. In fact I’ve seen many older boy/younger girl stories like this fictionally and in real life that are seen as ‘part of the norm’.
This is set in a summer camp in southern America a ‘few’ years ago so usual camp activities take place including shooting guns and the safety around such activities is more lax than I think it would be now. This was again a criticism I read from others, though I think we need to take care to read stories in their context not just applying today’s standards.
I liked the use of humour and ‘silliness’ when describing the typical teen girl behaviour such as lusting over the backstreet boys, being mean to each other and scaring the younger girls. As such I do think that teenagers will relate to the story whatever their sexual orientation. It’s about growing up, discovering yourself, falling in love and heartbreak. What is more universal?
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher Walker for the purposes of an honest review. I read it a year ago so apologies for the delay in reviewing.
If you recognise this woman you probably already have this book on your TBR. I have to admit though that I’d never heard of Lucy Sutcliffe when Faye approached me about being part of the blog tour for Girl Hearts Girl. Clearly I don’t spend enough time on YouTube because, Lucy, and her girlfriend Kaelyn Petras, have over 25 million views on their videos. I was, however, keen to read the book which is Lucy’s memoir of ‘Finding Herself. Falling in Love.’
An inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance, Lucy Sutcliffe’s debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story. In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, from Michigan. They began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in 2011. Lucy’s video montage of their first week spent together was the first in a series of vlogs documenting their long-distance relationship. Now, for the first time, Lucy’s writing about the incredible personal journey she’s been on.
What I thought
There has been a huge drive for increasing diversity in YA in the book community online, and writers and publishers are stepping up to the challenge with some great fiction and non-fiction books about mental health and LGBTQIA issues. Lucy’s memoir is a great addition to this market and adds to the #ownvoices movement.
Although the beautifully rainbowed cover markets this as a coming out story Lucy writes about her life more generally too and touches on her experiences with anxiety, transition to university, and generally managing a long distance relationship (Lucy originally lived in the UK and Kaelyn in the US).
Lucy starts the book with sharing her ‘mantra of sorts’ about thinking that the best is yet to come and she goes on to demonstrate a real appreciation of those simple ‘best’ moments that we often ignore. Being with friends, being in nature. There’s a sense of mindfulness and joy in simple pleasures that I found infectious.
Lucy’s coming out story is mainly a positive one and will hopefully provide other teens in similar situations with the courage to be authentic. Throughout her journey Lucy mentions that she knows her friends and family are supportive but she still delays telling them and there is suggestion that it is more about her own comfort and journey in ‘finding herself’ that is the biggest barrier. Doesn’t that ring true with lots of us – that search for and acceptance of identity.
There is a young feel to the writing, and at times perhaps a little over described for me but that didn’t stop me reading this charmingly honest account in only a few hours, and searching out the YouTube videos afterwards. I’ve shared a video below that really shows the importance of having real stories available to young people discovering their sexuality. To hear from Lucy’s friends about their experience, alongside the book, is a great addition.
In another video Lucy describes this as the book she wishes she had had when growing up. I think that whatever your sexuality, or age, this is a great read for anyone, it demonstrates to friends and families the importance of being supportive when someone comes out. The main negative experience Lucy had was so damaging to her health.
I wish Lucy the best of luck with the book and her relationship. The book is out now.
The Tour-wide Giveaway
There is a tour-wide giveaway! 3 copies of Girl Hearts Girl for 3 lucky winners!
Participants must live in UK or IRL.
The Rest of the Tour
Links for Lucy and Kaelyn
See Lucy’s friends reflection on the night she Came Out