I picked this book up last July before meeting (and being on a panel with!) Jaye Robin Brown in Washington DC at OutWrite Festival, and I’m so SO glad I did. It was fun to slide into a different kind of contemporary than I’d been reading, and it made me realize that I wanted more of this type of YA. The type with a super authentic voice, the type with a character who knows who she is, even though she happens to be hiding it. The type where the stakes are high for the MC, even if it seems like small potatoes to the outside world. And it was done so so well. Anyway, on with it, right?
In Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, Joanna Gordon has lived in Atlanta her whole life, and she’s been out and proud for years. She’s got a group of friends, some safe spaces, and she knows who she is and who she wants to be. But then her radio evangelist dad remarries, and the three of them pack up and move to small Rome, Georgia… where out and proud doesn’t exactly exist. And then Jo’s dad does the impossible – he asks her to be a little less out, to be a little less proud, to hide who she is so they can get settled into their new life. All Jo wants is a teen segment on his radio show where she can talk about being out and what that means to a Christian, and that’s what her dad holds over her head. So she does what he asks – she changes her clothes, her hair, and starts going by Joanna again, rather than Jo. She just says she won’t get close to anyone, and it won’t matter. But then she meets Mary Carlson and her sweetheart of a brother, and everything changes. Can she stay hidden in plain sight when all she wants is to be who she is – out and proud?
3 Things I Loved
- Jo. The voice of this narrator is one of the best I’ve read in a very long time. We can see inside of her, see her struggle, see her stumblings and successes and we root for her. It’s hard not to. Jo is a great character, and her voice is phenomenal.
- Mary Carlson. As a love interest and a friend of the MC, Mary Carlson’s character could have been easily written in a way that didn’t work. But it did work. It so did. Jo is entranced by her immediately, and it shows in all of their interactions. I loved her. And that ending? *fans myself*
- Rome. I find myself thinking this whenever I read a book set in a Southern town, but this town had a life of its own. It’s like its own character in this book. I loved that.
Parts of this book were really REALLY slow. I hate saying that, because the book as a whole was so great, but I almost set it aside at about the halfway point. It was long, and I think about 50 pages could have probably been cut. At the end of the day, I’d still recommend it as is, but there was a point where I almost didn’t finish it, and I can see why others might DNF it (although I hope they don’t!).
In terms of problematic content, I didn’t come across anything. BUT. Then I found this review, which opened my eyes to ableism that I just didn’t see. That’s my own blindness, and I am actively trying to see these things in content where I used to miss them. I would encourage you to read Natasha’s review, because she sees the world differently than I do, and it’s a valid reason for disliking this book (and not recommending it). Ableism is problematic, and is often ignored. Be safe out there, if you decide to read this book.
A reminder of the rating scale:
- Red = DNF, I hated everything
- Orange = Ugh, no thank you
- Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
- Green = This was good!
- Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
- Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!
To sum up – parts of this book were really slow, and there were some really problematic issues with an entire character. But the rep for lesbians is pretty fantastic, especially when it comes to small town Southern life and reconciling being gay with being a Christian. I’m going to give Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit a YELLOWISH-GREEN rating. My initial instinct was solid green, but the ableism gives me pause. I may actually come back later and change this again, after some reflection. We’ll see.
Have any of you read this book? What did you think of the rep as a whole?