Danika reviews Rum Spring by Yolanda Wallace

I have to be honest: many of the “lesbian fiction” (really more like lesbian romance, but they’re typically labelled lesbian fiction) books I have read don’t have the best writing. I’m not saying that the writing has to be lyrical or award-winning, but most of the lesfic books I’ve read have had writing that was, at least at times, distracting. For instance, this review so far seems to have a distracting writing style, at least to me. This is one of the many reasons I don’t write novels.

That being said, I found Rum Spring a refreshing change. The writing didn’t distract from the story. It didn’t seem clunky, or over-descriptive. It served exactly its purpose, without drawing attention to itself. I really, really appreciated that.

The subject matter was also interesting. Rum Spring is about a romance between an Amish girl and an English (non-Amish) girl. The romance seems to jump suddenly sometimes in terms of how their emotions develop, but the physical romance (not just sex, but dating, etc) seemed to move at a pace that made sense for the story.

I do have some minor complaints, however. [minor spoilers] At some point the couple gets named prom king and queen, even though it’s a same-sex couple, even though they’re not even officially together, even though they were a write-in couple, and most importantly, even though one of them doesn’t even go the school (and spends almost all of her time in the Amish community, so… I’m not even sure how they would know here name). That seemed pretty unbelievable. [end minor spoilers] Also, [vague major spoilers] the ending seemed a little unexpected and neat. [end major spoilers]

Overall, however, I enjoyed Rum Spring. The writing was possibly the best I’ve seen for the modern lesfic genre, and the premise and setting was intriguing. I would recommend this one.

Anna reviews Rum Spring by Yolanda Wallace

Rum Spring, by Yolanda Wallace, was published last December by Bold Strokes Books. I have read zero of those extremely popular heterosexual Amish romances, so I have no idea how Rum Spring stacks up, but when I read the tagline of the blurb (“Love or tradition? Which path will she choose?”) I was intrigued. The title refers to “rumspringa,” the Amish tradition of having teenagers venture into the modern world for several years before they commit themselves to the church.

Rebecca Lapp has been friends with Englisher Dylan Mahoney for most of her life, getting to know the other girl despite a language barrier and the restrictions placed upon her by her rigid faith. She knows quite well that her destiny is to marry an Amish boy and spend the rest of her life in her small Pennsylvania town, despite her interest in Dylan and the outside world. Dylan has been in love with Rebecca for years, and has been waiting impatiently for the Amish girl to turn sixteen and begin her rumspringa, hoping that the long list of activities she has created for them (which has enough items to span a lifetime) will help persuade Rebecca to choose Dylan over her family and the only life she has ever known.

The conflict between Rebecca’s feelings for Dylan and her conservative upbringing feels very real, and the consequences are serious. If Rebecca is caught with Dylan, or chooses to leave the church to spend her life as an outsider, she will lose her parents, her other family members, and the religion that has shaped her entire life. Although she admits her love for Dylan to herself and consummates their relationship on her rumspringa, after Rebecca’s sister Sarah is shunned for her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, she believes that she must remain with her family and commit to the church to fill the void left by her sister. As Dylan struggles to accept that they must forever remain only friends, Rebecca comes to believe that she must be true to herself, no matter the consequences.

Rum Spring feels a lot like a YA novel, not just for the high school and college scenes (Rebecca and Dylan go to the prom!) but because of the themes of growth and change and “coming of age.” The few sex scenes are well and tastefully done–logical extensions of Dylan and Rebecca’s feelings for one another. Rebecca is definitely a more sympathetic character than Dylan, whose determination to woo Rebecca comes off as a bit controlling (see the aforementioned list, which does not seem to allow Rebecca a great deal of independent thought). And her life is, seemingly, less fraught; Dylan’s family is perfectly accepting of who she is, despite being Catholic. [spoiler] One of the disappointing things about Rum Spring was its relatively easy denouement, which lessened the impact of the narrative buildup with its sweetness. This kind of rose-colored glasses perspective appears elsewhere in Wallace’s narrative:

Dylan had to admit her Catholic faith didn’t have the greatest track record when it came to gays and lesbians, but she thought the tide was slowly beginning to turn. Her parish priest, for one, was incredibly understanding and accepting. Perhaps the pope would eventually share his progressive views (148).

Perhaps this is simply reflective of Dylan’s naive optimism where sociopolitical issues are concerned, but I believe it is reflective of Wallace’s overall message, which seems sweetly unrealistic. I would have preferred a bittersweet ending–in which Rebecca has lost everything she thought she needed, but gained a lasting love (which would have been the best payoff for the dilemma Wallace set up)–to one in which they are able to kiss openly in a room that contains all of their family members, both Amish and English. Apparently I am an incurable cynic. [end spoiler]

Aside from the letdown at the end, I found the book well-written and the characters interesting. If you are fascinated by the Amish and rumspringa, looking for a story of young love triumphing over obstacles, or interested in lesbian romance with strong young adult overtones, Rum Spring might be just the book for you.