Erica Gillingham reviews Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

annieonmymind

“Have you ever felt really close to someone? So close that you can’t understand why you and the other person have two separate bodies, two separate skins? I think it was Sunday when that feeling began.”

Let me give you a little background on me before I tell you how awesome Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden really is: I research love and romance in LGBT YA novels. Which means that I read a lot of love stories about gay teenagers. Which really means that I’m a big ol’ sap. A novel with a sweet, compelling love story makes me swoon faster than you can say, “Kiss me.” Which is basically to warn you that this post may contain a large amount of gushing.

The other thing you need to know about my review of Annie On My Mind is that I avoided reading it for, well, a long time. My dismissive thinking went a little something like this: ‘it was published in 1982, two years before I was born! C’mon, it can’t be that exciting now. Really, how good is this “classic” going to be? A YA novel published in the 1980s must have been so censored that reading it will be such a chore—you don’t even get explicit scenes in YA published in 2012!’ (Yes, sometimes my inner monologue does remind me of the teenage characters I read about, but in the spirit of being with you honest with you on the Internet, I was thinking stuff like that.)

Which is why I feel it is so important to admit that I was being a big ol’ AGEIST when it came to actually cracking the spine on my 25th anniversary edition copy.

I want to stand up in front of all you lovely Lesbrary readers, own up to all of scathing prejudice and snarky disbelief, and admit: GIRL, I WAS SO WRONG.

Annie On My Mind is an incredible young adult novel with a sweet, sweet love story. It blows my mind that it was published in 1982—amongst so much fear and misinformation about homosexuality—but it boggles my mind even more that there aren’t MORE YA novels like it published by now.

To set up the story, Liza and Annie meet in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Annie is singing her heart out in a deserted wing and Liza, an architectural student, has come to take a look around the museum. They come from different socio-economic backgrounds and very different school situations and yet that does not pose any significant issue to their relationship. The attraction is instant and their friendship builds swiftly.

The major drama of the story revolves around the strict rules and image of Liza’s private school as it is in danger of closing for financial reasons. As you can imagine, all of the students and faculty (hint hint: there are more lesbians than meets the eye) must be on their utmost behaviour during such a funding crisis, i.e. any bad news is all bad news for the school. The other barrier to their relationship is Liza’s coming out process. To be fair, though, I have read much more tortured and dramatic coming out stories. Liza’s, in contrast, feels real in the time it takes for her to accept herself and open herself up—fully—to her relationship with Annie.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of page space given over to the sexual desires and acts between Liza and Annie. Sure, it’s not explicit sex scenes, but no one can argue that those two seventeen year old girls don’t have a healthy sex life! Some teenagers do have a high sex drive, especially when they fall in deeply in love for the first time, and it was refreshing for me to read that in a YA novel.

When reading it, I do think it is relevant to remember that it was published in the 1980s. Some of the references and ‘ways of life’ are no longer as common today—who has recently pierced their ears with a needle and a potato instead of going down to the mall?!—but the story itself isn’t dated. The relevance of a love story never ages, and this one really does deserve the title of ‘classic.’

Editor note: Also check out Danika and Ana’s conversation about this book, and Danika’s notes about this book!

Erica is a MPhil/PhD Student researching love and romance in LGBT YA literature. She is currently running an Indiegogo campaign, “Made with Love,” to fund the second year of her program. More info can be found on her website.

5 Replies to “Erica Gillingham reviews Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden”

  1. Cindy Rizzo

    Erica,

    Thank you for your great review and for your work in this field. I read Annie when it was first published and I’m glad to hear that it is still largely relevant.

    I’ve written a lesfic romance and am working on a second book. I have a strong interest in examining the boundaries between adjacent genres so I’d like to read more lesbian YA novels, particularly those like Annie, with a romance at the center (Happy Endings Are All Alike is another book from that time period that you might want to look at if you haven’t already). Since you follow it closely, do you have a list of 10 lesbian YA novels I should check out? I’d be curious to see how the YA and adult genres compare.

    Thanks,
    Cindy

    Reply
    1. Erica Gillingham

      Oops! I thought I hit reply to your post, just posting my comment back to you, Cindy, here again, in case you get notified this way.

      Cindy,

      Thanks so much for your message (and now I know who to thank for the the ‘rizzo’ contribution on my Indiegogo campaign! Thank you & look forward to sending you your badge).

      Firstly, I’m super intrigued about your book (is it available?) and thanks for the recommendation of Happy Endings Are All Alike. It sounds like our interests could really overlap, I’d love to stay in touch. My email is erica (at) ericagillingham (dot) com.

      Secondly, for lesbian YA novels, here are some recommendations that (mostly) have romance at the center:

      – Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters
      – Ash by Malinda Lo (lesbian Cinderella re-telling)
      – Huntress by Malinda Lo
      – Between You and Me by Marisa Calin
      – Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
      – Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie (Canadian)
      – Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
      – Sister Mischief by Laura Goode
      – About a Girl by Joanne Horniman (Australian)
      – Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (set in Victorian England)

      I’d also recommend these, but the love story isn’t as central to the novel:

      – The Difference Between Me & You by Madeleine George
      – Ask the Passengers
      – The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth (there are multiple love interests in this novel)
      – Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez (four characters: gay male, bi male, lesbian, bi female; two relationships)

      Gosh, that was hard to narrow down! There are others, so just send me a line if you want to chat about ‘em! Best of luck with the writing.

      Reply
  2. Erica Gillingham

    Cindy,

    Thanks so much for your message (and now I know who to thank for the the ‘rizzo’ contribution on my Indiegogo campaign! Thank you & look forward to sending you your badge).

    Firstly, I’m super intrigued about your book (is it available?) and thanks for the recommendation of Happy Endings Are All Alike. It sounds like our interests could really overlap, I’d love to stay in touch. My email is erica (at) ericagillingham (dot) com.

    Secondly, for lesbian YA novels, here are some recommendations that (mostly) have romance at the center:

    – Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters
    – Ash by Malinda Lo (lesbian Cinderella re-telling)
    – Huntress by Malinda Lo
    – Between You and Me by Marisa Calin
    – Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
    – Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie (Canadian)
    – Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
    – Sister Mischief by Laura Goode
    – About a Girl by Joanne Horniman (Australian)
    – Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (set in Victorian England)

    I’d also recommend these, but the love story isn’t as central to the novel:

    – The Difference Between Me & You by Madeleine George
    – Ask the Passengers
    – The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth (there are multiple love interests in this novel)
    – Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez (four characters: gay male, bi male, lesbian, bi female; two relationships)

    Gosh, that was hard to narrow down! There are others, so just send me a line if you want to chat about ’em! Best of luck with the writing.

    Reply

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