Review: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin BrownGeorgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
Published by HarperTeen on August 30, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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four-half-stars

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit has been one of my most anticipated releases ever since Dahlia (author of awesomeness) told me it was totally a Christina book. I mean, it was already on my to-read list because a contemporary f/f romance set partially in my hometown was a necessity. However, since I’d DNFed Brown’s debut, I feared that this one too wouldn’t work for me until Dahlia assured me that I most definitely would love it. Dahlia was right yet again. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit has a great voice, a beautiful look at faith, and an adorable romance.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is the perfect readalike for Openly Straight, which I loved earlier this year. Both novels tackle some similar thematic elements, one m/m and one f/f. Jo has been out and proud for years, accepted by her radio preacher dad and dreaming of her own ministry to help LGBT kids of faith feel accepted. When her dad marries his third wife, Elizabeth, snarkily known as Three, she’s uprooted from the open-minded, LGBT-friendly land of Atlanta to Rome, GA for her senior year. Jo’s dad shocks and saddens her by asking her to lie low for the year, so as not to upset the in-laws.

Jo agrees to her dad’s request in exchange for a radio show of her own, on which she will eventually be able to reveal her sexuality and begin her ministry to change hearts and minds. She changes up her look to be more “normal,” so that she can blend. At first, she hates doing this, but, as she makes friends, she enjoys a lot of the privileges of passing. Like in Openly Straight, there’s this internal conflict of how nice it is to pass and not have to fight, but it’s also so fucking soul-killing hiding key elements of her true self.

For those who don’t already know, I generally really don’t like religion in books. It’s really hard to write about a character with strong faith without it coming across as preachy. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but books like Things I Can’t Forget and Level 2 have managed that feat. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit joins the short list of books that I think get this just right.

Jo’s faith is strong and very crucial to who she is as a person, but she doesn’t judge others with different views. When it comes down to it, I think her radio tagline sums up her base views pretty well: “Keep it real. Keep it kind.” She doesn’t believe in using religion as an excuse to be hateful, as her step-grandmother does, but she wants to work to help people be more inclusive, not give up on her faith as a result of the hate some of the faithful have. Though I don’t share Jo’s faith in God, I relate to her views on kindness, caring for others, and not hating people for qualities intrinsic to them. There are many different kinds of faith shown in Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, and it’s not advocating any way of being aside from being kind.

The romance manages to be very hot and shippy despite relying on one of my least favorite romantic tropes: the inevitable fight over a secret kept for no good reason. Jo doesn’t want to break her promise to her father, but she can’t resist her feelings for Mary Carlson, so she ends up starting a secret relationship. Obviously, this doesn’t go well. It’s inevitable from the beginning that the two are going to fight when the truth of Jo’s past comes to light, but Jo makes a succession of bad choices. It’s not my favorite plot. Still, I did like that Jo put her family above her love interest at all points, which isn’t something you see in YA much. Also, for all that I’m a bit tired of romance plots like this, I think they’re very believable bad choices.

The one thing that I really didn’t like about Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits was the character of Deirdre. With most everyone else, Brown did such a great job developing the characters. Jessica, for example, doesn’t end up being supportive when Mary Carlson and Jo come out, but she’s not simply a terrible person. People have complexities, and anyone who’s actually important to the plot shouldn’t be one dimensional and evil. But then there’s the evil bitch lesbian Deirdre. She is characterized as having no good qualities whatsoever and I just don’t know why this happened at all.

In the author’s note, Brown mentions that this novel might possibly be too optimistic, and I think that’s true in some ways. Jo’s accepted by most of the people she’s gotten to know in Rome, despite the fact that she’s almost exclusively befriended people from a judgmental Baptist church that regularly preaches about how homosexuality is a sin. Still, as fiction, I think it’s important to see optimism in some LGBT novels. For years, what LGBT there was tended to be really sad. Those are important too, obviously, but it’s nice to see fluffier contemporary romances with happy endings coming out as well.

If Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits isn’t on your radar, it should be.

Favorite Quote:

“It would make my daughter very happy, and my children’s happiness is more important to me than anyone’s opinions or anything else in the world.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif kiss me girls

3 responses to “Review: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown”

  1. Dahlia Adler says:

    Yaaaay!!! Also omg I cannot believe I never drew the parallel with OPENLY STRAIGHT myself. I am so embarrassed. GOOD CALL.
    Dahlia Adler recently posted…Interview with Literary Agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock!My Profile

  2. This definitely sounds interesting, though, yeah, not as fluffy as I first thought. Thanks for the warning 😉

    But I am all for optimistic LGBT fiction. That is a necessity. Kind of skeptical about the romance (don’t like that trope either) but I should give this a try. *glances at TBR pile* at… some… point.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: Vicarious by Paula StokesMy Profile

  3. Lenore says:

    I just got this in the mail, YAY!
    Lenore recently posted…Guest Post: Intertextuality in Wild Swans by Jessica SpotswoodMy Profile

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