Annie on My Mind

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I had an incredibly difficult time writing a review for Annie on My Mind. And not for any negative reason – it is unbelievable. All I can think to write is “READ THIS!” Not only did I not feed my children last night, I didn’t even phone for pizza. I threw them $$ and told them to take care of it themselves if they wanted dinner. (Damn kids didn’t save me any.)

17-year-old Eliza meets Annie during an afternoon visit to the Museum. Annie is singing in an empty room, and Liza is spellbound. And a friendship starts. Which slowly and carefully blossoms into love.

Liza attends a private high school in New York City, while Annie goes to a rough public school across town.  They are both driven in their respective fields: Liza wants to study architecture at MIT, and Annie wants to study music in California. But they have much more in common than not, and their differences add to their friendship, not diminish it.

First published in 1982, this novel was written during a time when homosexuality was hidden and forbidden and something of which to be ashamed. I was just a teen starting high school then, but remember well the atmosphere surrounding the gay community. It was not, for the most part, welcoming or supportive.

This is one of the best, most powerful novels I’ve read in ages. Not just as an example of LGBT literature, but as a YA novel as well. Nancy Garden writes such a beautiful novel of acceptance and love and growth and coming-of-age that it will resonate with anyone. I love how she looks at the connection between the girls, and how not only does the society in which they live affect their relationship, but also that she takes a good look at Liza and how she comes to terms with herself. Annie is more open to the idea of falling in love with another woman, while Liza struggles more with what that means, even as she recognizes her passion for Annie.

The characters throughout the novel are incredibly true to life. I absolutely adore Liza’s parents; their acceptance of their daughter’s sexuality is touching and heart wrenching. Their love, even as they try to come to terms with this new information, strikes such an authentic chord, and one you wish every teen coming out could face.

The teachers who accept Liza and Annie, and the ones that don’t, are all familiar and well drawn. Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer are just plain perfect. And Liza’s fellow students strike the right balance; some who turn away in disgust, some who are curious, while others could care less.

But it is the authenticity of the relationship that makes this book incredible. Whether lesbian, gay, straight, bi, trans, everyone can relate to the feelings and emotions of the two girls.

Annie on My Mind is an absolute page-turner. Once I started it, it was impossible to put down, and I read it through from start to finish in one sitting, laughing one moment and crying the next, then cringing in sympathy, and back to laughter. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book, and could not turn the pages quickly enough. And I loved the ending.

Nancy Garden’s interview at the end of the book is a must-read. She is breathtaking.

Everyone needs to read this book.

Annie on My Mind was published 1992 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published 1982).

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