Saturday, May 19, 2018

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Evie is writing to her beloved older sister Cilla who was sent away by their parents after she became pregnant.  Evie's parents are strict Catholics who are trying to cover up Cilla's teen pregnancy by sending her to live with an aunt until the baby is born, then to boarding school afterwards.  Evie misses her sister terribly and writes to her almost daily talking about her life and hoping for big sister advice about her parents, religion, and her friendship with new girl June.  But Cilla never writes back, not even when Evie reveals more about how her feelings for June are developing into something more and how their parents seem to be breaking down. 

I liked this book but have a couple of issues with it that detracted from the story just a little for me.  First of all, I was having a hard time hanging in there while Evie wrote letter after letter with no response at all from Cilla.  And I know that's part of the point of the whole thing, but I was really disturbed by that.  And then when she finally does get a terse response, that was even worse!  The lack of reciprocal communication is a big factor in the book but I was pretty unhappy about it which really worked well to keep me intrigued so in the end, it's probably a good thing plot-wise.  But so frustrating!

My other smallish complaint is that there are a lot of issues packed into this story - teen pregnancy, religion, moving away from religion, developing lesbian feelings, and a couple other things I don't want to mention in case you haven't read the book yet because they're spoilers.  There were times when it felt like Petro-Roy was trying to take on too much but in reflection, I guess that all the other things that are happening would logically lead to a lot of questioning of religion.  

Despite these few things, I enjoyed the story and especially the slow development of Evie's feelings for June.  Their relationship rang so true to me, moving from a friendship to feelings of deeper caring in a very innocent way that is appropriate for their age.  But alongside those sweet, early romantic feelings are the fear of eternal damnation and the even more terrifying worry of having your parents hate you.  And given how Evie's parents reacted to Cilla's pregnancy, the fear of personal rejection would be even stronger in Evie than every non-straight person already feels when contemplating coming out to someone.  I was led to think about (again) some people's belief that being gay or trans is a choice and my response that I don't know why someone would choose to be discriminated against or oppressed or estranged from people they love.  Evie's worries are so clearly conveyed that I felt them growing throughout the book and making me tense IRL.  A real testament to the power of the writing and Petro-Roy's ability to pull me into the story.

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