One of the first books you see on every best lesbian YA books list is ‘Annie on my Mind’ by Nancy Garden and until I read it I couldn’t understand why but now I do because this book is amazing. I can’t believe this was published over 30 years ago, it’s older than I am but still breathtakingly beautiful and honest.
‘Annie on my Mind’ is the story of Liza and Annie, two 17-year-olds who meet at a museum in New York City. Their friendship forms quickly and easily. Liza is from an well situated family, attending private school and Annie is attending public school, her father is a cab driver but that’s never the issue.
The book is told retrospectively starting with Liza trying to write a letter to Annie but failing like she has done so many times before and so we enter their story, we learn how their friendship formed, how they fell in love, slowly and then all at once. (I swear, the John Green quote fits perfectly here.)
Liza and Annie don’t worry much about their labels or being gay. It’s discussed shortly but not more, which I liked very much. This isn’t so much a book about coming out but about being in love and having that first big love you (usually) get in your teens. Everything is new and exciting and wonderful. That’s what this book feels like and I adore it for it. Unlike so many other YA lesbian books I read, this doesn’t do any soapboxing for which I’m grateful.
The fallout in the book happens when Annie’s and Liza’s involvement gets publicised in Liza’s school, taking down with her two of her favourite teachers, Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson. And this is the only part where you really feel the books age because I don’t think what happens in the last part of the book could happen today and the author said so herself. But considering the time, it felt like a genuine struggle and not something the author made up to force a wrench between the two main characters.
The book ends on a happy note which I think is important and I can truly imagine teenagers reading this and having a WOW-moment eve,n 30 years later.
I still feel like I’m in a bit of a haze after having just finished this story because…I can’t even explain why. From where I’m standing, this book does everything right. I does teenager right, first love and that first love being with someone of the same sex. I personally think this should be taught in schools, kids should read this and talk about it and basically I want everyone to read it.
The one thing I want to know more about is the two teachers, Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson. I wish there was a book about them, about their story before and after ‘Annie on my Mind’.
This book is a testament to how much better it all has gotten for us, in big thanks to the internet. Information is only a click away and you don’t have to rely on encyclopaedias who depict homosexuality as an illness. There are hundreds of books available and you don’t necessarily have to go to an actual store to be looked at weirdly for buying a lesbian book. And then there is fanfiction. The internet is full of fanfiction and a lot of it is really, really good. Things have gotten so much easier, also thanks to authors like Nancy Garden, and that gives me hope. I know life for LGBTQA+ teens, especially in rural parts of the world, is still not the bees knees but it’s getting better. Maybe not as fast as we’d like but it’s getting there.