Saturday, October 29, 2005

Empress of the World, by Sara Ryan

OK, the digested review: girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girls try boys and decide that girl friendship is better....

Nic comes to The Siegel Institute (a summer school for gifted teens) expecting to focus on learning archeology. Instead, she discovers romance with Battle, the oddly named but enchanting. The summer becomes a story of struggling with emotions and desires, and wondering whether she is gay, bi, or just experimenting. Along the way, she discovers some great friends and more than a few lessons about human attraction.

Obviously, this is a great concept for a book and Ryan does a wonderful job capturing angst and the difficulties of struggling with sexual identity. What chills my review is actually the rest of the book, which gets a bit dull. If this was an Issue Book that just stuck to the whole teenage homosexuality theme (which, by the way, is really nicely done!), it would be excellent, but every 20 pages or so, we plung into a couple pages of fairly unrelated and inane dialog that caused my attention to flag. I really want to like this book, but it really needed to tighten up a bit.

One of the reasons I really liked the book was because I could relate to it. I was pretty convinced of my bisexuality when I attended the PA Governor's School for the Arts, but I can relate both to the hot house atmosphere of a gifted summer program and to that search for sexual identity. Ryan hits both of those right on. The most intense memory of PGSA was how intense we felt everything was. We were convinced that this was IT. We were the cream of the crop, the true experts, the new generation. None of us had gone to college yet, but we spoke of things that summer like it was an end. Certainly, spending weeks with kids who are as good as you are (and no longer being the lone star in your classroom) really boosts a person. But there is something almost explosive in combining those feelings with that teenage hormones and emotions. Remembering all this makes me want to go out and read a book just about that!

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