In this lyrical, heartwrenching story about a forbidden first love, a teen seeks the courage to care for another girl despite her small town’s bigotry and her father’s violent threats.
Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.
As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.
Mara knows she can't live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin?
The description doesn't mention Henry, the Native character. Here's what I see in Amazon's "look inside."
We meet Henry at the start of chapter 4:
There's a new freshman named Henry at our school. He's an Indian who moved from the reservation. His father came here to work at the prison, not as a guard, but as a janitor. Henry has no mother. No one knows why for sure. Some people say she drowned herself when he was little, right after his baby brother drowned in the tub. But I don't know if that's true. People talk a lot, and only half of it has any basis in reality.
What I do know is that Henry has long braids, black and shiny like licorice whips. Daddy said Henry's father fought the school for Henry's right to keep his braids and they agreed because they needed his tuition money. That pissed Daddy off so much, he drank all night and punched out a window. "It's a disgrace for a man to have long hair!" he bellowed. "It says right there in the first Corinthians. They call that place a Christian school? The little fucker probably worships rocks and trees and wolves and shit."
Daddy isn't alone in his convictions. All the boys at school hate Henry. Especially Elijah Winchell. I heard that in the bathrooms, they shove him up against the wall and call him gay. Also, people say he wears tighty-whities, which is weird because, apparently, most boys wear boxers these days. Not that I'd know from personal experience, but everyone seems to agree on it.Mara feels bad for him. By the end of the chapter, she's invited him to her birthday party. He accepts her invitation. The last line in the chapter is this:
And that is how I ended up with a genuine Indian coming to my birthday.I'll order a copy and will be back once I've read it.