“What if the secret is more damaging than the truth?”
Every now and again, you will come across a piece of fiction that resonates so deeply within you that it will move you to tears. That is exactly what happened to me, as I read If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman.
This Australian YA novel tells the story of seventeen year old Alex Summers, as she comes to terms with being a lesbian in her small homophobic town of Two Creeks, after a mysterious and intriguing girl her age, Phoenix, moves into town.
As Phoenix’s sexuality is quickly questioned and ridiculed by the entire town, Alex’s internal struggle seems amplified by the controversy this new girl is causing. And despite warnings from friends, parents and even her own hesitation, Alex befriends Phoenix. The pull to her was magnetic and though she battles her own internalized homophobia and fear of being outed, she reveals her truth to the girl she’s fallen for.
An adorable, yet frustrating romance ensues, only to leave you gripping your heart in the end, as it is uncovered that Phoenix has a secret of her own… which I am choosing not to reveal in this review because it was THAT shocking. Despite the foreshadowing throughout the novel, the twist is completely unexpected and will leave you wrecked for days. Seriously folks, grab some tissues.
If John Green wrote a lesbian novel, it still could not compare to Tuckerman’s astonishing debut work. Two incredible #QueerQuality thumbs up!
“Don’t let fear keep you on the ground. You should jump.”
Now, I cannot speak much to the queer climate of Australia, as I reside in the ever so inclusive land of California. And though I have heard that Australia is one of the most LGBTQIA friendly nations in the world, it surprises me that it took until December 2017 to pass marriage equality for all.
But this is what I can tell you.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, as I was a young teen, California seemed no more queer friendly than that of Two Creeks. Being called “gay” was still an insult and if you were deemed to be so, you were an outcast. I knew of only one out gay kid in my high school and it was a constant struggle for him. The queer representation on mainstream TV was limited to Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek, who faced constant bullying like my friend, and the relationship between Willow Rosenberg & Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who was ultimately shot to death by a stray bullet, starting the lesbian death trope.
So though I was beginning to realize I was queer, I kept my mouth shut. I was different enough, I didn’t need to make my life worse.
I was Alex Summers.
It took nearly a decade more, and a very inclusive working environment, for me to safely come out. And though it may seem hypocritical to spearhead a queer platform and not fully be out and loud about my sexuality and gender identity, that is where I find myself now in my thirties. But for these very reasons, Queer Quality was created. This platform is how I chose to jump.
The world has changed and will continue to do so. It is novels like If I Tell You that will help make it easier and safer for the young and struggling Alex Summers’ in the world to find their voice.
If I Tell You is a novel you won’t want to put down, despite the rollercoasters you’re put through. It’s emotionally draining in all the best ways. This Pantera Press publication is an easy and quick read, with relatable characters, all of whom represent a person each queer person has had in their own life. Whether you are out or in the closet, this story will inspire you and beg you to question your own reasons for putting off the way in which you want to live your life.
Thank you so much to Alicia Tuckerman and Pantera Press for giving Queer Quality the opportunity to go on the this incredible journey with you, Alex and Phoenix. We are so very humbled by allowing us to read and review this touching story and we cannot wait to read your next novel.
If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman is available on Pantera Presses website and will ship internationally.