“I shouldn’t have come to a gay beach. That was wacko of me. Here I am, terrified of people thinking I’m a tortillera. I was thrown out my school and my house for loving a girl, and what do I do? I come to a gay beach for the first time in my life. I’m just the most brilliant kid on the block.”
Do you know how I know when to put a book on the All Time Awesome-est List? It’s when I’m seriously let down when the book is finished, when I feel like there’s no way the next book will compare to it. Well, here it is, friends: meet the new addition to the List: Mayra Lazara Dole’s Down to the Bone.
On the last day of eleventh grade, Laura gets caught reading a love letter in class at her Catholic school. Worse still, the letter is from a girl, her secret girlfriend of two years. The nuns drag her to the office, call her mom, and in the same day, she gets kicked out of both her school and her house. Worst of all, her girlfriend gets shipped off to marry a guy! So that’s no school, no home, and no love…you’d think it would be the end of the world, but Laura works it out, with the help of a colorful (and still authentic) cast of characters
This book sparkles with enthusiasm. Laura is sassy, funny, and passionately devoted to her friends and little brother. (She even sneaks in to see him at his school when her mother refuses to let her visit). During the course of the story, she has to make some difficult choices: coming out, when it might mean that her mom could never speak to her again, or just trying (like her ex-girlfriend, Marlena) to find a guy and live the straight life, because it’s too scary to lose everything. However, even though she’s really struggling with her identity and feelings, the book doesn’t ever bog down into the “This is Just a Coming-Out Book” pit. It’s fresh-and that’s mostly thanks to Laura’s hilarious commentary (Dole is a master with dialogue!) and the great supporting characters.
I love it! I love it because it features a Cuban lesbian as main character. The food, the Miami beach culture, the Cuban influences, and the slang all make this book delicious and fun. But I love it even more because it’s a very honest portrayal of the coming-out process. For example, Laura tries hard to date a boy, but she ends up just feeling like she can’t get close to him emotionally, even though she doesn’t dislike kissing him. The story lets you get close to Laura in that way, by following her thoughts, and she’s so positive and funny that you just fall in love with her! I also like that Dole lets the readers get a little nervous: I know that when Laura is waffling about coming out to her mom (I won’t ruin it for you, though), I was rushing through the book, because I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the Brave Thing.
This is an ALA Rainbow List (a great list of GLBTQ books for young people) Starred selection, and was also nominated for the ALA Best Books list, as well as the winner of the Americas award, for its portrayal of Latinas in the United States. Good stuff!
What’s even better is that she has a new book coming out next year! Wooohooo!
Dole, Mayra Lazara. Down to the Bone. New York: HarperTeen, 2008. 351 pp.