It’s the 1970s, and Allie has just started a new middle school. One of the first people she meets is Sam: horse-riding, popular, confident. Allie is shy, but joins the school newspaper and before long, the editor is hinting about dates with Allie. As Allie realizes that Sam is the person she wants to spend most of her time with, she realizes that many people, including Sam’s mother (and maybe even her own) are uncomfortable with homosexuality. Allie wonders if she can change herself, or hide her feelings in order to make life easier – but will she be happy?
The central conflict of this book is interesting and important for all kinds of readers. Although the book is set in the 70's, some of the judgment and support of Sam's and Allie's feelings for each other are recognizable in modern-day contexts. A subplot of the book is Allie's relationship with her mother, and how she wants more independence, but also to make her mother happy. This tension, while fairly straightforward, is still relatable and genuine.
Generally, I recommend books about crushes for students in 6th grade, or possibly 5th and up. However, this book’s sentences and vocabulary are more for a fourth grade or advanced third grade audience. This makes the book accessible to more students, but a little simplistic for many older readers. There is some overly repetitive dialogue, and some of the characters are a little too perfect with their responses to difficult situations to be realistic (for example, when Allie first tells Sam that her older brother died, and Sam has a textbook supportive reply at the ready).
The plot moves quickly and raises timeless questions about growing up and figuring out who you are and how to stand tall in a world that sometimes judges without seeking to understand.
"I'd sworn to be a good daughter, to never cause Mom the kind of pain Eric's death had, but somehow I hadn't kept my promise."
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