Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

For many a teenager, sexuality is a source of confusion. You begin to feel things during puberty that you're unsure you should be feeling. You start wondering what girls or boys you find attractive. You begin experimenting. Contrary to what the old-fashioned of us may believe, it's completely normal- even if you think you may like someone who's the same sex as you.

This book deals with that secondhand, through the perspective of a fourteen-year-old named Ellen. She loves her older brother Link, and thinks she is in love with his best friend, James. It isn't until she goes to high school for the first time and begins to find "friends" of her own that she begins to wonder if Link and James aren't just friends, but a couple. When she brings it up, Link vehemently denies it, and that breaks up his relationship with James. Soon, Ellen finds herself in her own relationship with James, who finds that he is perhaps not gay but bisexual, and wonders if she's just a placeholder for her brother until he finds his way.

This book is better-written than The Drowning of Stephan Jones by far. It deals with the topic of sexuality and the debates that come with it in a more realistic and delicate tone. Ellen's voice is sincere and refreshingly innocent. There's no graphic descriptions of gay sex, no gratuitous swearing (though the "f" word for gay people is used), and overall I think Freymann-Weyr broaches this topic very well, in a way that teens can understand it without getting deep into the nitty-gritty details.

Still, it has been challenged. Fairfax County Elementary/Middle School Library Systems have faced complaints about this book (scroll down to second title for info on this book) due to the "sexual" content (Ellen loses her virginity to James), the topic of homosexuality, and the use of alcohol by the underaged characters. Fayetteville, Arkansas parents have accused this book and librarians who support it of "promoting a homosexual agenda" (remember that conversation?) and object to the profanity and depictions of gay sex. (Where, exactly, are those?) The Library Patrons of Texas also have tried to remove this book. To my knowledge, they haven't succeeded.
I've complained about those who have used the "homosexual agenda" to ban and challenge books before, so I won't do it again. I'll only say that the proponents of the ban are wrong. The mere mention of homosexuality in any book is not grounds to ban it, by any means. Gay people are a part of this society, and no amount of sticking your head in the ground or fighting exposure is going to change that. So, if you're looking for a good, quick read that deals with a tough topic, pick this one up.

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