when, instead of supposedly getting the best of both worlds, you get unfair prejudice in both of them.
Sure, here’s my permit:
You know what my favorite thing about this book is?
HERE IS A STORY ABOUT A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A BISEXUAL GIRL AND A LESBIAN WHERE THE BI GIRL DOESN’T JUST EXIST AS A DISHONEST AND MANIPULATIVE FOIL TO HIGHLIGHT THE SWEET INNOCENT LESBIAN CHARACTER.
Yeah I put that in all caps and bolded it. Because it is that important. Because after choices like Bermudez Triangle/On The Count of Three and The Difference Between Me And You, teens deserve better. Bisexual teens deserve better.
And Frenemy of the People delivers.
Clarissa just realized she is bi and after having to give up her riding lessons because of her parents dire financial situation, she decides to try starting up a GSA. Lexie has been the only out teen at her school for years and wears her angry radical dyke armor with pride. They hate each other from the beginning. But when Clarissa begs her to come to GSA, sparks start to fly.
This book is both a slow romance, a laugh out loud comedy, and a drama with unexpected depth. There is a core of social justice in this book that is really refreshing. Early on in the book, Clarissa comes down on Lexie like a ton of bricks for using the slur ‘r*****ed’ and it is beautiful. And Lexie does exactly what you’re supposed to do when called out — apologizes and does better. Clarissa also doesn’t take any biphobic shit. Lexie cares a lot about animal welfare and class issues. Clarissa acknowledges that she doesn’t know much about trans people but also shows an openness and eagerness to learn as part of starting her GSA.
Frenemy of the People also really knocks it out of the park with Desi, Clarissa’s older sister who has Down Syndrome. Desi never feels like a ‘very special character’ and she doesn’t exist to inspire or educate anyone. Also the subtle messages about ableism in this book were great. Olson is not above subverting tropes of disability ‘inspiration porn’ as the girls campaign for Desi to become homecoming queen. Desi also joins them on their totally illegal and highly awesome nighttime vandalism.
I still think Olson could use a stronger editor to help her sharpen up some of her characterizations. Lexie comes off a bit too knowledgeable about mortgages and the housing crisis and Clarissa’s temper tantrum when Lexie’s mother buys her horse was a bit much for a teen that had been so level-headed in the lead up. But this book was light-years ahead of her last, Swans and Klons, which I thought was a hot mess.
But fundamentally this is a fun and sweet mixed-orientation romance with a real social justice heart. I highly recommend.