Author: Kim Flowers
Reviewed by: Diane
Publisher: Queerteen Press
ISBN 13: 9781481120463
During the Second Civil War, a new U.S. political party called the Family Protection Movement established The Divide, which separates Normal people from those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
Seventeen-year old Serenity Blackwater lives in the normal Midwestern town of Mapleville, but she is not normal. She hacks into an illegal gay chat room and meets Dawn, a lesbian who lives in a gay community less than a mile away. Serenity discovers normal people can bribe their way inside the walls and decides to go, both to meet Dawn and check out what may be her future home.
Dawn is even more beautiful than Serenity hoped, and the two soon become a couple. But Serenity only has a few months before she must take the Normal Verification Test, and then she’ll be separated from her family forever. So she joins the Human Equality Organization, an underground group working to end The Divide. Dawn thinks the rebellion is too dangerous, and since Dawn’s ex-girlfriend Malaki is also a member, Serenity doesn’t tell Dawn about her involvement.
While it has happened in history, I would never want to imagine a world where people are separated into “communities” because they are different, however, that is exactly the setting for “The Divide”, the first book in a new series. The Divide is the reference to how people were separated to live in the United States after a second Civil War, where people who were LGBT were moved to secure communities (also known in history as internment camps, reservations, although in this book they are slightly more evolved since they do in fact, have their own businesses and economy) to live separately from the “normals”. And in the “normal” and free parts of the country, an altered version of history is taught to keep the new generations in line, along with as strict church attendance and participation. At the age of 18, children are submitted to a test to see if they remain “normal” or are determined to be gay, in which case they are sent to a community and their family can either join them, or disown them.
Interestingly, if you are a child of gay parents in one of the communities but not gay, you have the opportunity to go to college outside the community, but you have limited, government pass issued, visitations to your family.
As with any oppression, there is an underground movement for change, in this case, that is a group called HEO – Human Equality Organization.
Serenity is 17, the only child of parents who are deeply involved in their church and town, believe in the teachings and have dreams of their daughter marrying a man and having children. However, Serenity knows she is a lesbian and dreads the test she will have to take in less than a year and what will come of it, and will her parents and friends hate her when the truth comes out. She is afraid of being sent to one of the communities for the rest of her life, but she is even more afraid of not finding out more about gay people because of what she has been taught all her life about how different they are. She is a bit of computer wonder and regularly hacks into chat rooms, looking for one where she might find someone like her, but is also afraid of being caught by her parents or being spied on by some level of the church or government.
One night, she meets Dawn in a chat room, and after a few chats keeping things general, they both finally believe that the other one is not a spy, trading pictures and chatting with each other secretly, well, secretly for Serenity!
Dawn lives in Community 17 with her two Dads, while her brother is on the outside going to college. Meeting each other in the chat room changes the course of Serenity’s life a lot sooner than she expected and is told from her point of view.
This is the second book I’ve read by Kim Flowers and what I like about her characters is that they are very strong – in their opinions, in their desire to do the right thing even if it is not popular, they are independent while opening their hearts and in some cases, opening their minds as well. That was the case in No Turning Back, which is the case here as well.
While there are many kids who are afraid of being true to themselves, The Divide is a world where that fear takes on a whole new meaning, because it means being removed from all you have known by government, along with the possible disowning by your relatives. A close call with her parents heightens Serenity’s fear to the point she sneaks into Community 17 to find Dawn because she literally has no one she can talk to her in her hometown. On her first and subsequent visits, she finds out the history she has been taught does not match up with what we know as history, that while the town she lived in may have the freedom to travel the country and the world, they are living more of a lie than what she has been led to believe.
She also meets Dawn’s friends, amongst that group is Dawn’s ex girlfriend, Malaki, who claims to be a member of the HEO. Dawn does not think there is anything wrong with living in the Community world since it is all she has known, but the closer Serenity gets to having to take her sexuality test, the more she thinks joining this organization may be the way to bring about change. Serenity does not want to lose what she knows, but she cannot deny who she is either, especially as she falls for Dawn. Dawn feels the same for Serenity, however, her feelings on the HEO does become an issue for their relationship.
This is a well written young adult story with action and budding romance and you cannot help but admire Serenity wanting to blend the two sides of her life, even when her parents utter words that make it seem inevitable what she will face if they find out the truth, and involving herself with HEO threatens her new relationship with Dawn.
So, a young girl who is discovering attraction to the same sex, fearing the hatred of those she grew up with because of that, spending time with this lobby group that can also be seen as a rebel group, all these secrets are going to collide and the trigger is HEO deciding they are going to pull back because their plans are being compromised, but Serenity just sees her personal deadline getting closer and feels she has to do something. That something leads to her being captured and how it plays out had more surprises than I was expecting! They are not bad surprises, just that there were quite a few of them with the supporting characters!
As with the first book I read, the supporting characters are just as important as the lead characters to carry the story, provide choices and in some cases, direction, but at the heart of it, at least for me, was Serenity’s desire for unity because we are all people, no matter who we love. That is probably my favorite part of the book because as soon as she learns how much the people in Community 17 are just like her, she can no longer agree with the far left or far right values for either side. Unity is more important than any kind of divide.
I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys young adult fiction, particularly action/adventure/fantasy (as I hope we never create a world like the one presented in this book so I’d like it to remain a fantasy!) and for those who like having characters to cheer for. There is some violence in the book, particularly where Serenity is captured, but it is not graphically described to really require a warning, but the suggestion is there with the physical pains and evidence of her ordeal.
Another great read from Ms. Flowers and I think it will be interesting to see where this series goes from here.