Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?
From the get-go, I was unable to get on board with the premise of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit: upon moving to a highly conservative small town, the preacher’s daughter is asked to pretend to be straight in exchange for being allowed to (eventually) run a radio show that will, hopefully, change Christian hearts and minds on queerness. While this allowed for important discussions on privilege and acceptance in a heteronormative society, it seemed ridiculous that such a supposedly supportive father would ask such a thing of his daughter.
Having attended church with my family when I was younger, I was curious to see how the intersection of faith and sexuality would be explored in this book. I liked how Joanna was both queer and religious, as those are often seen as incongruous facets of an individual’s identity. The messages of love and acceptance were delivered authentically, without coming off as “preachy”, and could have a meaningful impact on individuals who are struggling to reconcile both their faith and their sexual orientation.
I read contemporaries for the swoony romances, but I found myself disappointed by this one. Whether it was because it involved a contrived argument over a secret that didn’t need to be kept or because I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, I just couldn’t get invested in the relationship.
I was also disappointed to find plenty of ableism throughout the novel, where a character with an intellectual disability is written as a small child. This was made worse by the fact that a lot of it was perpetrated by an individual who claimed that he “inspired” her to pursue a career teaching individuals with learning disabilities. For a more in-depth examination of this, see Natasha’s review.
Overall, I just didn’t love any aspect of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit; there were a couple of portions that I liked but those were heavily outweighed by the more unenjoyable aspects.