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on 21 August 2017
Reading Annie on My Mind in 2017, what was once considered a groundbreaking coming of age novel on its publication in 1982 admittedly feels incredibly dated. Thankfully attitudes have mellowed, albeit much too slowly, but besides the abhorrent treatment and an appreciation of progress made, the emotions of the story are still very true. Whilst the actual specifics and details may be markedly different for today's teenagers, the ensuing turmoil of self-acceptance and coming to terms with ones identity is still every bit as relevant. Not every moment of Liza and Annie’s story will chime with every gay or ‘confused’ (I hate that term) teenager, but through it they will be able to draw parallels to their own lives.

Annie on My Mind is the story of two seventeen-year-old girls whose chance meeting at a museum and their blossoming friendship slowly turns to first love, self-discovery and the struggle to stand up and be proud of who and what they are. When Eliza (Liza) Winthrop visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of inspiration for her architecture project she meets Annie Kenyon and they form a instant connection, despite coming from vastly different backgrounds. Liza is a privately educated pupil at priggish Foster Academy in Brooklyn Heights and as a studious and sensible girl she has been elected student council president. Together with her parents and younger brother, Chad, she has never given too much thought to anything other than aiming to study at MIT, let alone love. Annie Kenyon, meanwhile, lives in a rather more down-at-heel neighbourhoods and as a daughter of an Italian born cab-driver she attends a significantly rougher public school, where she feels very different to her classmates. At Liza’s school, Foster Academy, the emphasis is on upholding morals and adhering to strict rules, most closely scrutinised by two religious zealots in headmistress, Mrs Poindexter, and her acolyte of an admin assistant, Ms Baxter. Launching a fund-raising drive to save the school, Liza’s breach of a bizarre (nonsensical) reporting rule over an ill-advised ear-piercing session carried out by another student, Sally Jarrell, gets her suspended and it is her recounting of this debacle that sets the tone for much of the novel. However, not all the teachers at Foster Academy are quite as small-minded and in art teacher, Ms Stevenson, and English teacher, Ms Widmer, whose discreet cohabitation arrangement may appear very innocent within the confines of the school kindred spirits do exist. The suspension and the burgeoning friendship of Liza and Annie slowly turns to something more and ‘cat-sitting’ for the aforementioned teachers turns out to be a euphemism for their first physical encounters! Despite Liza having to go before the draconian disciplinary panel and her unwillingness to admit to the full extent of her liaison to her parents, an enforced summer separation and first term as freshman allows reflection for both girls and the promise of a Christmas reunion hints at both being determined to give it a shot!

Readers hoping for a ‘cheap thrill’ will be sorely disappointed by the contents of Annie on My Mind for there is very little detail about the physical side of the relationship. It takes Liza and Annie a lengthy period of flirting and clumsy fooling around before they manage to hold hands, let alone kiss. Even then the emphasis isn’t on showing the physical manifestations of their love, but in just spending time together, not touching, but simply being close to someone once a connection has been made. The hesitation surrounding the initial stages of the romance takes the form of tomfoolery and play acting and whilst I found this hard to identify with, it was all part of testing the water and gauging an individuals response to ones intimations and overtures. The pantomime charade is a little overly long and frankly embarrassingly twee and felt somewhat stilted, however, I felt part of this clunkiness was beneficial in reflecting how awkward it can feel for things to begin to progress and emotions outside of ones comfort zone to begin to emerge. Once the girls come to accept the progression of the relationship to a more physical love, the hesitation and hurdles are well documented and for many people today this is still a significant obstacle. Annie on My Mind is a beautiful tale of two girls, both wiser than their years, slowly beginning to come to terms with their emotions.

Although it is often said that this is a “lesbian love story with a happy ending” and there is the promise of hope and the relationship flourishing, on the evidence of the attitudes of the era, I think that the optimism should be a little more reserved. After all, with Liza being called before the trustees’ council and the bible bashing crones that pass for the staff of Foster Academy spouting an about immorality and Sodom and Gomorrah, I fear this may be wishful thinking. Some youngsters today might have difficulty relating to the two seventeen-year-olds as the passing generation have given way to a more streetwise, open-minded and experienced mindset. I can appreciate that some may find Liza and Annie a little dull, in terms of dating rites but I would urge them to stick with this novel, if only to appreciate the albeit slow progress we have made in accepting homosexuality. I had questions and areas that I felt Nancy Garden neglected to address, most notably the religious beliefs of Liza and Annie, particularly given how devout Foster Academy seemed to be. For example, did the Winthrop family have strict religious beliefs, or was it just Foster Academy that was so conformist? Annie on My Mind is narrated from Liza’s point of view and inevitably it feels that she is more clearly drawn than Annie, despite Annie having largely come to terms with her sexuality, she remains a vaguer and unknown quantity.

A wonderful read, not without its faults or particularly great literature, Nancy Garden’s portrayal of first love still has relevance, even for today's more confident and worldly wise teenagers. Honest, sentimental, frequently corny from the overtures of their first meeting, their muddled feelings and their course to becoming lovers, this is a charming and poignant novel that I am throughly glad to have read. The school setting works well and plays an important role through its oppressive and overtly hostile atmosphere when Liza’s is called a lesbian and when her lab partner asks her about the mechanics of lesbian sex. As heavy handed and gauche as this book often feels whilst reading, there is something fitting about the whole ungainliness of the story and it is undoubtedly still true that the course of gay love is still not as recognised or accepted as it deserves to be.

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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on 25 March 2015
It is a great piece of young adult fiction and when it was first published was considered completely groundbreaking in terms of YA LGBT fiction.
The book tells a touching and realistic relationship of two teen-aged girls, Annie and Liza, who met by chance in a New York Museum. The narrator, Liza, comes from a middle-class background and attends an independent school threatened with closure. Whilst Annie lives in a rough neighbour hood and escapes through music and stories. Both girls are initially very conflicted about her feelings but in time the pair come to admit their love in a world full of hate.
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on 10 July 2017
very good
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on 29 March 2017
good
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on 12 April 2005
I read the reviews of Annie on My Mind (AOMM) and I immediately knew I had to read the book. I ordered it at the beginning of April and have been waiting for it to arrive. It came today, and I began reading. I did not stop.
The writing is excellent; it portrays a lesbian teenage relationship fraught with uncertainty. I think this book would appeal to the straight teenager as well as the gay.
The uncertainty that they both feel, about what they are feeling happens to all. I found myself reading one page, racing through the text, having to re-read the pages more than once, to get to the next. Knowing that this beautiful relationship will hit a snag, wanting the snags, just so you could read it repaired.
I love this book, and I am set to read it again, and notice all the subtleties I missed in my haste to finish.
The characters are complex, which makes this book so wonderful. They are human, with human emotions that I have found to be lacking in any romance fiction. When it comes to gay or lesbian fiction, the relationships are usually described as lust filled encounters, two people meet, unexpectedly attracted to each other and end up sleeping together, thinking in their mind "oh I shouldn't be doing this" for a mere second. In this wonderful novel, the characters seem duly confused over their growing attraction to each other, and uncomfortable with themselves, trying to explain it to the other. Whether you are gay or straight, confessing that you have strong feelings for another person is difficult, adding societal pressures to the mix... Nancy Garden manages to capture it all, in her too short a book.
My measure of good characters is that long after you put the book down, you wonder what the future holds for them. i find myself wishing Nancy Garden to write a follow up, so I can find out what happens between these two.
Please read this book, I have very few favourites, and this is one of them.
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on 26 September 1998
I started reading this book one night and stayed up until 5am till I was finished! Nothing I read ever made me feel this way, like somebody finally understood. If you feel like nobody understands homosexual relationships, read this book and almost everything you think about may be in there. AOMM finally tells what it FEELS like to be in one of these relationships, and it shows (finally!) that homosexual relationships involve LOVE, something you don't hear much about because of all the "preachiness" of most books on this subject. Annie and Liza are great characters; Liza could be a model for how to cope in an ignorant world. It's not fair that Liza's greatest struggle in this book was being herself! I wish anyone who is ANY sexuality would read this, because it is so true. It is am extreme Eye Opener!!! If everyone was given books like this to read, maybe we would all understand each other a little bit better. It is a beautiful story of how two friends fell in love, nevermind the fact they are both the same sex. This book can be described in this statement: "Don't let ignorance win. Let love."
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on 19 April 2017
Amazing edition. It's hardbound and DOES NOT have a dust jacket. I almost did flips when I saw that. The book looks great and I'm not at risk at ripping the reason for it looking great :)! As for the innards.... Does it even need to be said? It's a great classic :)
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on 18 February 2004
So, these two girls fall in love. Big deal.
Well, it is a big deal if it happens to you. There is a dearth even in this day and age of books for teenagers about growing up gay, but this particular example has stood the test of time. The date of its publication, 1982, will inevitably lead to comparisons with Edmund White’s “A Boy’s Own Story,” yet while White’s semi-autobiographical work is perhaps the greater achievement, “Annie On My Mind” is the one I would recommend most strongly to teenagers.
The emphasis, quite rightly, falls on the love between the two main characters, but Nancy Garden also takes the chance to highlight the prejudices of others and the awkwardness of young, self-conscious gay couples to express their feelings for each other outwardly – not because they are ashamed, but because they are aware of the bigotry surrounding them.
There are uncomfortable moments in the book, but Nancy Garden is to be applauded for tackling prejudice in a mature way, rather than by forcing her own morality on the reader. We are encouraged to see both pro- and anti-gay opinion, but are ultimately left in no doubt about which is the stronger.
This is a book which will both affirm the acceptability of being gay to teenagers struggling with their sexuality and also inform straight readers of the difficult choices facing gays to this day. It is also emphatically not a book purely intended for adolescents, and can be enjoyed by anyone who is prepared to approach a book open-minded. After all, in the end it’s a book about love.
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on 2 April 1997
I picked up _Annie on My Mind_ with mild curiosity; no one was "out" at my high school, and I found the subject matter about two young lesbians coming to terms with themselves and homophobia interesting. After reading the book, however, I was amazed at the grace, beauty, and romance that Ms. Garden put into the novel. _Annie_ is a beautiful love story, not just a lesbian love story. I wish more of my homophobic high school friends would have read it.
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on 16 October 2008
Annie on my mind took my heart in its hand and led me through a beautiful simple sweet love story which I could feel part and parcel of ... No complicated scenarios, no strange vocabulary but literature that speaks to the heart.

Everyday life, everyday problems, things that most of us, or at least me have passed through.

Every single detail talks about love. Mind you I said Love, because it's just secondary the fact that the story is about two gay teenagers. And that's what is all about, love, in all its dimensions, all its colours... love on daily bases which I could relate to. That's what's compelling about this book which I suggest fervently to read, gay or not.

Thank you Nancy Garden!
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