Friday, December 3, 2010

My Invented Life

Bjorkman, Lauren. My Invented Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2009. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Roz and Eva have always been best friends as well as sisters. Secrets, giggles, pillow fights, the works. Sure, Roz has always lived in Eva's shadow, but it's an impressive shadow so she doesn't mind too much. That was before Eva removed Roz from her life. Now, PD (Post Deletion), Eva is doing a pretty good job of pretending Roz doesn't exist, and Roz thinks she knows why. Eva MUST be a lesbian and she MUST be terrified of coming out. Even though Eva is being horrible to Roz, she wants to do something nice for her, to help her. So Roz pretends to be a lesbian and comes out at school, both to show Eva how it's done and to snag a bit of that spotlight for herself.

I checked out My Invented Life after reading Libyrinth and being overjoyed at reading about a queer character with friendS. It seems like such a simple thing, to give a queer character more than one friend and/or a friend who is NOT another queer character of the opposite sex so that none of the real life problems of one-sided-lovey feelings between friends get in the way of the story arc. My Invented Life was suggested (by the awesome MissAttitude) as another book featuring queer teens with (gasp) friends of both sexes and multiple sexualities. On that basis alone, this book is already a win!

My Invented Life is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's "As You Like It," but instead of mistaken genders, we have mistaken sexualities. In case you don't get that similarity right away, the characters are also auditioning and rehearsing for a school showing of the play. Much of the book takes place in the big barn behind the school where the theatre geeks hang out and practice. The characterizations of the drama club crowd are pitch-perfect. The major players range from Eva, popular cheerleader who always gets the lead, to Eyeliner Andie, the showy goth chick with the super-skinny, shy boy toy. Amazingly, up until Roz decides to pretend to be queer, there doesn't appear to be any other non-hetero folks in the group.

Right before auditions, this tight-knit group (which also includes Roz and her arch-nemesis Carmen) is joined by the drama teacher's nephew, Jonathon. He's new (read: automatically crush-worthy for most of the group), has done something that has gotten him kicked out of his parents house (mysterious bad boy with a serious chip on his shoulder), and African-American (a fact which seems to surprise only Roz). Roz lays claim to him on the basis that he's her next door neighbor, she's the drama teacher's favorite, and she could use a friend. Coming out does not go as she hoped. She gets attention, RoZ iZ a leZ on the bathroom wall, but not the outpouring of love and support she was hoping for:
"None of my friends hugged me, not even once." We theater geeks touch a lot -- hug, polka around the room, and smoosh cheeks together for pictures. ..."They probably though I would fondle their breasts."
So Roz starts a campaign to educate her classmates about the Kinsey Scale and to make them accept her as a lesbian. For Eva's sake, of course. Even though Eva still won't admit that she's queer (no matter how much Roz tactlessly badgers her about it), Roz keeps up the facade. She and Eva begin to bond again over The L Report (Roz's nightly updates on her "experiment" with lesbianism), Roz gains some new friends (including Jonathon and Eyeliner Andie) and a new understanding of what all those people online mean when they say "sexuality is fluid," and secrets come out of the woodwork and from all directions.

This is a cute story with an engaging and memorable cast of characters and a predictably happy ending (if you're familiar with "As You Like It"). It's also a great book about being the only "one" in a crowd, whether by "one" you mean POC, queer, poor kid, goth, whatever.

Book source: Philly Free Library


Lauren Bjorkman said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Lawral the Librarian said...

Thanks so much for stopping by!