While Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit has been available for a little over two years, I can still remember first hearing about it and experiencing this intense giddiness at the story’s premise. I experienced this giddiness for several different reasons:
- One, I love a good f/f love story. There are so few out on the market, so when one comes out, I jump at the chance to read it.
- Two, it takes place in Georgia and though I moved away from that state when I was 12, in my heart I’m still a Georgia peach through and through
- Three and most importantly to me, this book featured a lesbian character who is also a devout Christian. But instead of struggling to reconcile her faith and sexuality, the main character starts the story knowing Jesus loves her unconditionally.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading Georgia Peaches and other Forbidden Fruit. The romance was sweet and endearing. (I was rooting for the main character, Joanne, and her love interest, Mary Carlson, the entire time!) Some of the characters were interesting. And at times, it almost felt like I was back home in rural Georgia.
But there were some big issues I had with the story.
There’s a whole of characters in this book, but unfortunately, I don’t think every character is used to their fullest potential. Most of the characters lacked depth and because of this it was easy to forget some of the minor characters. There were many times where a character would reappear and I had to pause my reading to remember who they were.
I think this problem becomes apparent with two characters who play a major role in the story’s plot. Jo’s father and step-grandmother could be considered the antagonist in the story. And yet, I feel as though these two character have very little influence within the story.
The main conflict begins during the opening scene. It’s the reception party for the wedding of Jo’s father and new stepmother, Elizabeth. Jo hides as best she can during the celebration and talks to her best friend, Dana. At some point, Dana goes off with another wedding guest, a former high school classmate of Elizabeth. The two women hook up in the hotel’s hallway, before going into a guest’s room (and it’s pretty much glossed over that a grown woman and a teenager have a sexual encounter). Elizabeth’s mother (aka Jo’s step-grandmother) witnesses this and (in a scene off the page) complains about it to the family. This eventually leads to Jo’s father having a conversation with Jo about reeling in her sexuality (for a year at least), so he and Jo can fit in with their new family. Jo agrees on the condition that she can go on the summer vacation of her dreams and she can run her own talkshow segment on her father’s religious radio station.
It’s never explained why it was so important to get along with the grandmother. I never had the impression that she was a particularly influence person within the family and as we meet other members of Jo’s new step-family, it’s clear that the step-grandmother is the odd person out of the bunch. There is a scene where the step-grandmother makes a nasty comment about a mentally disabled character and everyone brushes her off and doesn’t take her seriously. I kept waiting for a scene where the step-grandmother exhibited great influence, but it never happened.
The father had slightly more depth than the step-grandmother. I’ll steer clear of spoilers, but a lot of his development occurred off the page. There was at least one scene where the father showed growth, but it occurred after a conversation with Elizabeth that the readers didn’t witness. Towards the end, when he has his final “confrontation” with Jo, it feels undeserved and I was left wanting a more thorough explanation that led to his change of heart.
Not all of the characters suffered from poor development. Elizabeth, Jo’s stepmother, starts off lukewarm about Jo’s sexuality. At one point in the beginning of the story, Jo mentions that when Elizabeth learned that Jo was a lesbian, she said that it didn’t change her feelings for Jo’s father, but she never mentioned how she felt towards Jo. But over the course of several heartfelt and entertaining scenes, Elizabeth’s feelings and opinions change and she bonds with Jo, sometimes even standing up to Jo’s father to defend Jo.
Likewise, Mary Carlson, the love interest, develops into a girl completely confident in who she is as a person. It was inspiring to watch her come out with the mindset that she wouldn’t be concerned by what other thought.
I wish the other characters were written with as much depth as these two women.
One last point: There is a character, B.T.B., who has a mental disability. Unfortunately, this character is consistently talked down to and it occurs throughout the story. When he makes his first appearance in the story, I was upset by the way the characters interacted with him. As the story progressed, it was never clear if the characters realized how condescending they could be. I wished this wasn’t a part of the book. I’m an advocate for diversity in reading, especially in books aimed at children and teens, but I felt like this wasn’t quality representation.
Sadly, the light, fluffy, sometimes melodramatic romance wasn’t enough for me to overlook most of the 1-dimensional characters. And the poor treatment of the sole disable character left a sour taste in my mouth. I wish my rating was higher because I was initially excited for this book. But I finished this book wanting something different.
Side note: I’m excited to get back into book reviews, but I want to rethink and revamp how I organize and write my reviews. While I try to figure everything out, I ask that you bear with me and if you have any tips, please feel free to share. I’m eager to learn how to make my reviews a lot more informative and concise. My hope is that within a few weeks or months, I’ll develop into a better reviewer.