Orphea Proud by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Orphea Proud’s been in love with her best friend Lissa since they met at age ten. However, after the first night they kiss is the morning her older brother and guardian Rupert catches them in bed together, which is the last time Orphea will ever see Lissa.
Rupert packs Orphea off in disgrace to stay with their dead mother’s elderly aunts. This turns out to be the best thing for her, as she slowly opens up and comes to terms with her grief. She befriends the odd, isolated fourteen-year-old Raynor Grimes across the road, a relative of hers despite the fact that she’s black and he’s white, and between his phenomenal art and her poetry, become a performance art act at a club owned by friends of Orpheus’s in New York.
Even though Orphea’s brother reacts in the extreme, it’s a nice change of pace to see a queer teen book that doesn’t revolve around coming out (or not) at school, and Orphea is a refreshing change in that she’s sure about her own sexual identity. (Which is not to say that there isn’t a need for angst-ridden “am I or aren’t I?” high school dramas that make up most of the current crop of GLBT teen lit. But a bit of variation is good, too.) Though Orphea’s monlogues throughout the book make the narrative a bit disjointed, the characters and emotions ring true, and this bittersweet book will resonate when it finds the right reader.