Pink by Lili Wilkinson
Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741758344
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. LGBT, Coming of age, Sexuality, Schools. Ava is unsure about what she wants in life but feels the need to be pink, even if only for a while. She is drifting at her state school, not wanting to stand out out by being serious about her work, and applies for a scholarship to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, much against the wishes of her parents. Here she hopes to be challenged and encouraged to do better academically, as well as wear pink, a colour she loves but has forever been banned by her parents as gender stereotyping. But she is unsure about what the change it will mean for her relationship with Chloe her first love, and is even interested to see what it will be like having a boyfriend.
Arriving at the school sees her fitting in immediately with a group of girls she calls the Pastels. She is seduced by their girly talk, their boyfriends, their aimless chatter, going shopping but is taken aback by their single-minded view of their future selves. One girl, Alexis insists on pairing Ava with a boy in the musical, but as she is only part of the stage crew, the Screws, feels she hasn't a chance. The reader can see from the start that her efforts at fitting in will be difficult, the vacuous lifestyles of the private school people she has befriended are very different from her own aspirations and because she is keeping secrets, trouble is sure to follow. And she has Chloe to contend with, and along the way a growing admiration for the Screws develops. Many misunderstandings later, the night of the musical performance is under way but by now Ava has sidelined all who love her.
This is a funny, sharply observed look at one girl's attempts to be one of the new crowd and her need to be different, if only for a while. She is still unsure about her sexuality and wants to be able to try different things. The book underlines the fluidity of adolescence where all things are possible but eventually your own sense of worth and integrity develops and is able to shine through. Wilkinson always writes an intelligent book, and this one revealing Ava's tussles with who she is, is also about loyalty, friendship, love and sexuality.
Published in 2009, I am sorry I missed it then, but it is just as relevant now and holds its own in the small but growing number of LGBT books available for teens.