Book Review: Without Annette by Jane B. Mason

without-annetteWithout Annette
Jane B. Mason
Scholastic Press, June 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-81995-4

In an attempt to help her girlfriend, Annette, escape from a drunken, abusive mother, Josie Little decides they should both apply to Brookwood Academy, an elite boarding school in Connecticut. Besides getting Annette away from her mother, Josie believes she and Annette can live as roommates and as a couple there without the constant scrutiny of the folks in their small hometown in northern Minnesota.

However, nothing goes as Josie plans. They are assigned rooms on separate floors with different roommates. Annette falls in with the elite, snobby group of girls who run with her roommate, Becca. Josie becomes more and more morose and feels she’s losing a part of herself as the school year goes on and Annette drifts further away from their lesbian relationship.

Growing up in a house full of brothers, Josie easily befriends a group of boys who are searching the tunnels under the school for a shrunken head of legendary importance to the school’s history. One of the boys falls for Josie and further complicates her adjustment and her relationship with Annette.

The story is told in first person by Josie and is full of inner-speak and teenage angst. The romance here is between two girls, which puts a new twist on the jealousy and growing apart that accompanies romance novels, but the processes of breaking up, coming of age, and understanding oneself are universal. All the characters are believable and as fully developed as they can be from a story told entirely from one, first-person point of view.

I found it hard to read the graphic descriptions of sexuality between the young (starting at age twelve) girls, and I grew tired of the constant second-guessing and profound inner-thought written in language beyond most fifteen-year-olds. The author wanted to be sure her readers understood the message. However, the lessons Josie internalized apply to all kids, no matter what their sexual preferences.

The book is appropriate for young girls coping with their own homosexual preferences and for older teenagers to understand that lesbian girls have the same feelings, intellectual abilities, and choices in life management as everyone else.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, November 2016.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

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