"Like Two Opposite Things," by Eda J. Vor
Young Adult Bisexual / lesbian Romance
It all happens here, in the armpit of the jetty on the far end of North Beach. This is where Helia Desiderio--nick-named Hell-yeah by her friends--ends her reign as a kiss-virgin dork baby and finally gets up close to the campground jock, her crush, Patrick. But nothing goes the way she plans: not the kissing, not the crushing, and definitely not the no-big-dealness of kissing both girls and boys. When she has to choose between the surprisingly sweet boy who loves her and the best friend she didn't know she had, Hell-yeah's forced to figure out some things about life and love and who she really wants to be.
Okay, I have to start out with a confession: as a general rule, I don’t read YA. I know it’s currently one of the hot sellers out there, but for me, I tend to prefer more adult themes in my pleasure reading, and whenever adult themes are thrown into young adult books, things usually get hairy. Which, for me, makes the book that much less enjoyable. I absolutely cannot stand when I read a YA where the characters feel like they’re in their mid-40s. If you’re going to write about kids, for the love of all things good in this world, do your research and make them kids. If you’re going to write about adolescents, same goes. Make it realistic, at the very least, or I flat out can’t palate it.
Now that my mini-rant is over, let’s shift gears to the reason I’m writing this review: Like Two Opposite Things, written by Eda J. Vor. Let’s just start with this: Ms. Vor is absolutely, positively not guilty of my above frustrations. Of all the YA I’ve encountered over the years, I can honestly proclaim that this, right here, is the most genuine piece I’ve read—and despite my mild aversion to it, I’ve read my fair share as a beta and/or in mild hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.
This is written in the first person present POV—not my favorite POV style, I’ll admit—but I all but forgot to be tweaked out by the narrative by about page five. Why? Because I was so dang impressed with the characterization and voice that my focus shifted away from the writing itself and fell heavily into the story and the characters—exactly where it should be. The main character, Helia—lovingly nicknamed Hell-Yeah by her nearest and dearest—is a fifteen-year-old girl who possesses a beautifully fifteen-year-old girl voice. I could just hug Ms. Vor for her accurate depiction not only of the thoughts and speaking patterns of adolescents, but also for hitting the nail so squarely on the head in regard to actions, reactions, and interactions amongst the group.
The realism of the characters was further supported by the simplicity and honesty of the story itself. While my childhood and adolescence hardly mirrored the weekend getaway campground adventures portrayed in this story, the characters themselves, as well as their conflicts and relationships, felt very real and representative of some of my own experiences. I cannot count the number of times I was immersed in a scene and all I could think was, “OMG. That was me. That was totally me. Gah! Why are adolescents so flippin’ stupid?! Why can’t I jump through the page and give them all the knowledge I have now??”
Oh, that’s right, because they have to figure it out on their own. Ms. Vor’s characters weren’t 40. No way, no how. They felt like authentic teens, with authentic problems… and painfully genuine ways of trying to solve them.
I adore how simple and real the plot was. The conflicts weren’t huge dramatic battles that forced the kids to grow up sooner than they should, nor were they eye-rollingly contrived or convenient. They were real, honest-to-goodness problems teens face every single day. I’m talking friendship, cliques, bullying, first kisses, sex-talk by the clearly clueless by intrigued, and those special teenage relationships that are their own unique beast that we can all look back on with a groan and a grin.
But it goes further than that. It also delves into sexuality, but in a truly impressive fashion. You see, as you’ll discover quite quickly, our main character, Helia, is a bit confused. She knows she likes boys, but does she like girls too? Is it okay to like both, or does she have to pick? Should she force her heart to follow the "expected" path, or open herself to what she wants most? At its heart, this story is about discovering who you are and accepting what you want in life. But it’s approached from the true perspective of a fifteen-year-old girl who hasn’t had a chance to even think about her sexuality, let alone determine who or what she wants.
Which means we, as the readers, get to watch that self-discovery unfold. And let me tell you, it is a beautiful, stunning thing to behold. There is hatred, but there is also love. There is misunderstanding and discomfort, but there is also acceptance and encouragement.
If anyone were to ask me to recommend a book to a scared and confused teen, facing their own sexuality crisis, this would be a book I’d whole-heartedly steer them toward. Because it doesn’t sugar-coat. Instead, it shows a genuine depiction of someone going through all the stages of struggle. From that first niggling thought of, “am I different, are the things I want not the same as others ‘like’ me?” all the way to a final conclusion that I won’t ruin for you here, but that I promise will leave you satisfied and filled with warmth and joy for our little Helia.
But most importantly, it teaches that tolerance can be found, that hatred isn’t the only option, and that friendship—of all types—can make all the difference in the world. It harbors a powerful message of self-acceptance and self-discovery.
I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates well-done, sincere, and honest YA, but also to anyone who needs a dose of the frank and real in a world that often doesn’t dish it out. I would love to see this book brought into the classroom and used as a tool to teach tolerance and acceptance, but if nothing else, would love to see it read by every young adult possible. Whether they’re questioning their sexuality, or simply living in a world where those around them might be, this book could go a long way to help instigate conversation and open young minds to truths that might otherwise be difficult to understand.
Until next time,