Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin’s book Tessa Masterson WILL Go To Prom will blow you away. It is an amazing literary effort about the good, bad and the ugly of friendship and LGBT youth.
Tessa Masterson is a young, recently out lesbian who just wants to go to the prom with the date and attire of her choice: a girl and a tux–with heels. This decision upsets her entire town; bringing out the their homophobia and bigotry while the school administrators turn a blind eye and do whatever they can to thwart Tessa from coming to the prom (Gee where have we heard this before?). To top it all off, the one person whom Tessa could normaly rely on, her best friend Lucas, is on the serious outs with her since she didn’t reveal she was a lesbian until he made a very grand, rom-com style gesture to ask her to go to the prom.
What I love (and hate) about this book is the reality of it. When Tessa’s sexuality becomes public knowledge in the town, she becomes the target of a lot of hate. There are lots of protestors with anti-gay shouts and signs. The kids in her school are all against her and the townspeople, some of whom her parents helped during hard times, all turn on her and her family. It was tough to read at some points, mainly, because it’s true. We need to look no further than the latest LGBT headlines to see these kinds of things happening again and again. Tessa does eventually get some support as the book goes along.
I like that the characters were flawed. When we read, we want the characters to all do the right thing; make the right decisions; to be the perfect projections of what we ourselves could do if we were in those situations. The characters in Tessa Masterson are not perfect. Each is flawed in a nuanced way and each makes mistakes that make them more dementional, though not always more likeable. More than once in the story, I wanted to kick a character in the butt for some feeling they had or decision they made, but it was real. We are not perfect and with this book trying to be a fictional reflection of things that are happening right now, it hits the mark pretty well.
I like that the authors had a happy, but not sappy, ending. The ending resolved some of the issues that face the characters with redemption for some, but did not tidy everything up with a pefect bow.
I expect that Tessa Masterson WILL Go To Prom will win some awards in the coming year. It certainly deserves it. For anyone who would like an idea of what it must be like to be a young, out teenager, pick up a copy of Tessa Masterson. For anyone who is interested in equality, pick up Tessa Masterson. For anyone who wants to commiserate with LGBT youth characters, pick up Tessa Masterson. For anyone who needs to open their eyes as to why hate and anti-gay beliefs are detrimental and should have no place in today’s world, pick up a copy of Tessa Masterson. This book should be on required reading lists–it’s that good–but I expect that it will more than likely be on banned booked lists for daring to suggest that gay kids are just people who, as the main character states, ‘want to go to a dance.’ Either way, Franklin and Halpin have definately added a classic to the world of LGBT YA literature.