Book Review: No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace

no one needs to knowTitle: No One Needs to Know

Author: Amanda Grace

Expected publication: September 8th 2014 by Flux, 240 pages

Recommended if you like: Sarah Dessen, LGBTQ stories, twins, realistic fiction, non traditional love triangles

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 smuggled xanax pills

Mini Review: Sometimes the cliché of opposites attracting has more to do with differences in socioeconomic structure than in attitude, life goals or gender.

ARC provided through Netgalley

Summary

Olivia and her twin brother Joey have been BFFs their whole life. Their rich parents have never spent much time with them, and now that they’re old enough, they’ve been left basically alone in a fancy condo with an ocean view. They’ve only ever had each other (and a lot of money), and that’s always been enough. But now they’re juniors in high school and Olivia can feel Joey pulling away from her. New interests, new friends… they don’t seem to have anything in common anymore.

Until  Zoey.

Zoey is the girl from the other side of the tracks. She attends Olivia’s private all girls high school on scholarship and is mercilessly bullied by Olivia’s best friend. When the two girls are partnered together on a project, Zoey finds herself spending time with Olivia… and with Joey. Olivia doesn’t expect it to last—Joey’s flings never do—but just as Joey admits to deeper feelings for Zoey, Olivia starts to realize how much she cares for Zoey as well. Olivia must decide whose happiness is more important: her brother’s or her own.

The Good

Lesbians!! Who doesn’t like queer women falling in adorable love amirite? This is a good example of a coming out novel that’s not a coming out novel. The main conflict arises from Olivia’s not wanting to hurt her brother, not from self-loathing or angst about being queer. In fact there is almost no discussion of labels at all. Zoey and Olivia simply find themselves falling in love. And while we certainly need stories that explore the “coming out” journey because those stories are still TOTALLY RELEVANT it is also nice to see books where falling for a girl isn’t that big a deal.

Olivia’s best friend Ava is a bitch and it takes her a while, but Olivia finally stands up to her. How many of us – beautiful, smart, talented people—spent high school feeling like we weren’t quite worthy to hang out with someone in our friend circle? How many of us kept our mouth shut when our BFF said something mean about someone else? How many of us have had to break up with a toxic friend? Watching Olivia finally say “enough is enough” was super gratifying for the seventeen year old girl inside me who was too afraid to do that in high school.

The Great

This book does an excellent job of showing the stark divide between the haves and the have nots. Olivia has a new car; Zoey works double shifts at the local fast food joint to help her mom pay rent. Olivia has a beautiful condo; Zoey lives in a small, run down rental house. Also Zoey’s mom works hard. Yes its important to have books that spotlight the poor where drugs and/or abuse play a factor because it is so common (read Eleanor & Park if you haven’t for a brilliant example) but I love the presentation of life where there doesn’t have to be drug addiction or an abusive step-father in order for the poor family to be poor. They’re simply poor due to all the myriad of factors that make a significant portion of our country’s population poor. And they’re all honestly working as hard as they can to make better lives for themselves but ITS SO DAMN HARD.

Olivia isn’t inherently greedy or mean spirited, it’s just never occurred to her that not everyone has what she has. And because she’s a teenager that is not entirely her fault. The key thing about Olivia is that when it does occur to her that life has dealt her and Zoey different cards she starts to unpack her privilege rather than getting angry and defensive. I mean she does get a little defensive, but she gets over it.

Okay, I realize I’ve barely talked about the main plot of the story which is the love triangle when Olivia and Joey both fall for the same girl, but honestly that – while well written—was less interesting to me than the social justice stuff surrounding it… cuz I’m like that. But I will say that I loved Joey’s reaction when he finds out about Olivia and Joey. He’s not mad or shocked or betrayed. He doesn’t feel like less of a man because Zoey picked his sister over him. He’s just like “I love you and I want you to be happy and if you’ll be happy with her than… dude… go for it.”

The Mildly Trite

There is a bit of the cliché of the poor little rich girl whose parents don’t understand her, and while I am sure it is based in fact I feel this could have been handled more complexly. The thing that ALWAYS gets me is the epilogue where the couple is still together 2 years later. Moving into an apartment together and going to the same college. I know that a teen reader wants to imagine that happening and I know that optimistically happy endings are here for a reason I know I know I know. But seriously almost NO ONE stayed with their high school Significant Other. And that’s REALLY OKAY!! We grow and change as people. The end of high school isn’t the end of the journey– it’s just the beginning. I get it, that’s another book and stories have to have an ending I get it I really do. But that doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes.

Conclusion

A good read and a good addition to the slowly growing collection of LGBTQ literature. I’d recommend it to any teen looking for a romancey book.

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