My Rating: 2 stars
I had complicated feelings about this one. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit follows Joanna Gordon whose radio preacher father asks her to go back in the closet when they move to a rural town after his marriage. On one hand, it’s a fun and easy read that I found enjoyable. I particularly liked seeing representation of Christian LGBT+ characters. It’s not something you see too often, and it’s something I actually really needed to see in high school when I was struggling. I think this book could be helpful to teenagers trying to reconcile their sexuality and their faith.
However, as enjoyable as it was to read and as much as I liked seeing that aspect, this book has a ton of problems. The most glaring one is the treatment of B.T.B., a character with a mental disability. From the moment he’s introduced, it felt like other characters were belittling and mocking him, even the characters we are supposed to like. Jo is nice to him, and Mary Carlson, his sister and Jo’s love interest, is supposed to be his biggest advocate. But the way they treat and talk about him feels so condescending. The other major issue is that every lesbian character other than Jo and Mary Carlson is depicted in a negative way. In the first scene we see a grown woman hook up with a teenage girl, and it’s never addressed. Other characters are abusive or involved in illegal activity or just bitchy. It just rubbed me the wrong way and felt unnecessary.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of how the romance between Jo and Mary Carlson is handled. Instead of telling Mary Carlson she used to be out and had figured out her sexuality a while ago, Jo acts as if she’s just discovering it. This is to go along with her dad’s request to “lay low,” and it is where most of the plot comes from. And that’s fine. I just feel the ending happened too fast and things were forgiven too easily. I think that Bill Konigsberg handled a similar situation much better in Openly Straight.
Overall, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit could have been a fun book if not for ableism and bad representation. I do think it could be incredibly helpful to a certain audience. But while I might point someone to it based on their individual circumstances, I wouldn’t generally recommend it.