Everyone remembers their first love, and especially Johanna, who can’t exactly forget her love interest and girlfriend Reeve, or the hot, purple bruises she leaves on her. Semi-isolated due to the death of her parents and the distance, mainly emotionally, from her older sister, Johanna's just trying to get through her last year of high school. But, she certainly isn’t going down without a fight, or in this case a kiss, from the local out-and-proud fellow lesbian Reeve, whose cocky attitude and teasing nature snag Johanna hook, line, and sinker.
But soon Reeve’s very true, very hidden nature is revealed, stemming from a difficult home life that manifests in her violent reactions towards Johanna, effectively drawing the other into her world and sending her into a downward spiral.
Though all is resolved at the end, there is no saying that it won’t shock you, nor leave you with empty thoughts regarding it. This book is mature for a young adult novel and tackles everything that many teens do, and don’t face: first loves, bonds that you can’t break (but really should), and the pain of knowing that you have to say goodbye for your own good.
It’s worth pointing out that this book wasn’t a totally original idea on Peters’ part, she had received numerous letters from a very determined young woman who wanted nothing more than for Peters’ to tell her story, even offering up her journal entries for inspiration. The book is dedicated to her with the curt description of her as a “very persuasive young woman,” and one can only say “thank God” for that determination, because without it we would have never gotten such a powerful piece about an all-too-often ignored topic, abusive same-sex relationships.
Now, I’m not normally a romantic person. I used to roll my eyes at it in any book I stumbled across, and I would side-eye the romance section of any bookstore, but Julie Anne Peters has changed all of that. Despite my being straight, Peters’ lesbian and bisexual characters have experienced the truest, strongest, and most relatable emotions of passion, lust, romance, and regret that I have ever felt in book characters. Every break up, every hook up, every kiss, every little-bit-more-than-a-kiss, I feel as much as the characters do. You smile with them when they win, and cry with them when they don’t. If you only pick up one piece of LGBT* lit. in your life, no matter what your reason, I highly recommend Peters’ work.