The year is 1977 and Allie has just moved from New Jersey to North Carolina. Her parents are divorcing and her brother recently died in an accident. Life definitely isn’t easy. As she starts her first day at school she has two goals – make a friend and join the newspaper staff. Fortunately, Allie meets Sam, an incredibly outgoing girl who knows everyone at Daniel Boone Middle School and is ready to be Allie’s welcome wagon. Sam becomes the friend that Allie has never had before.
But One True Way, the new novel by Shannon Hitchcock, is more than just a story about two girls becoming friends. This is a story about finding yourself, reconciling who you are with who people expect you to be, how religion plays into all of that, and coming out in the 70s. Allie realizes that her friendship with Sam is more than just friendship, but this is the South in 1977 and homosexuality just wasn’t something that was accepted by most people. Allie has a gay uncle, so her family is at least open to the option, but it isn’t what her mother wants for her knowing how difficult being “different” can make your life. Sam’s mother believes that homosexuality is a sin and is part of a church that believes you can decide to not be gay if you want.
Before Allie realizes what her feelings for Sam are, she also meets an adult lesbian couple – Coach Murph and Mrs. Holt. She sees how they hide their relationship unless they know they are around allies and she sees how people like Sam’s mother see them – as abominations. When Allie tries to come out to her mother, she doesn’t get the support that she so desperately wants and needs and she tries to change. But staying away from Sam and lying about who she is doesn’t feel right.
I could have read this book in one sitting if I had had the time. The story felt very authentic and the characters relatable. I will admit that I have not read a lot of LGBTQ fiction myself, but One True Way felt that it captured aspects of what it must be like for some kids, even in modern times where homosexuality is more generally accepted. I think that this is a great addition to the world of MG fiction.
*Note – I received a copy of this book from the #kidlitexchange for review purposes. All opinions are my own.