an eighth grade gay straight alliance
reader's review-pikasho deka
"An engaging coming-of-age tale with poignant social commentary, An Eighth Grade Gay Straight Alliance is a relevant book for our times. Micko seamlessly integrates these themes into the narrative, adding weight to the gravity of the story. Sydney and Brooklyn have completely opposite personalities."
reader's review-rabia tanveer
"Beautifully messy and written with perfection in mind, An Eight Grade Gay Straight Alliance is outrageously entertaining. Sydney and Brooklyn are surprisingly complex and mature for their age. They are teenagers with the souls of adults who have lived through lifetimes already."
Amazon Review-grady harp
"The book addresses the young teens audience and provides an understanding and appreciation for gender differences and preferences by using current language and modes of communication. Simply stated, it works!"
A thought provoking story about the harm that comes from radicalized bigotry and how a sense of community can go a long way.
"Bruh, I'm from Modesto. My life's just like yours."
A few teens fail into some trouble and learn some hard truths when they create a Gay-Straight Alliance club with no adult supervision. In this book, the characters navigate a world that is deeply unfair, a world that seems to punish both those who have done wrong and who are wholly innocent.
The novel explores the dangers that come with bigotry and moral superiority through the eyes of middle school students.
"There's silence, and I breathe a bubbled breath of relief. No one understands. Everyone is out for themselves, and nobody cares for my feelings. This is where I am -- my world sucks, and nobody cares."
Sydney and Jennings are two headstrong young women who create a GSA with a motley crew of their peers. Their goal is to liven up the GSA and make it more than a club just for talking about one's feelings. Jennings' vision for the club is for it to be a tribute to 'bad girls in history,' such as Annie Oakley, Cleopatra, and Khutulun. Sydney and Jennings share a similar background in that they are both Muslim and first started stealing peaks at each other whenever they want to their shared mosque. Throughout the book, the two girls develop a budding romance that is often interrupted by their need to argue. Many of their arguments seem to stem from their fears of getting into a relationship and going public.
“I’m convinced that’s why she started the GSA. She wanted a new mosque to go to, a mosque that she could control and take action when the situation deemed necessary.”
Sydney and Jennings are forced to grow up much faster than they should because they witness that the adults in their lives can be dangerous or unreliable. Sydney’s mother is in love with a married woman, and she also deals with a bit of a gambling problem. The adults in Jennings’s life are even more extreme: one of her uncles was radicalized into believing that same sex relationships brought shame upon the family, so he killed one of Jennings’s queer cousins. When this uncle comes into town, Jennings, Sydney, and the whole GSA crew’s lives are at risk.
“I stop in my tracks. I heard it, and I don’t know what to say. Jesus, we’re still in that world. Another rite of passage. It’s not enough to learn to navigate; we also have to absorb the hate.
I loved how this book was able to capture how messy life can be and how there are no easy answers or solutions. It delicately handles the question of religion and allows the young girls to determine for themselves to what extent they should follow their religious practices. In the girls seeing how fallible the adults in their lives can be, the girls can see the adults’ errors and choose what the right things for themselves to do are.
“I get on my knees, and we pray. We sit for a while, and our thoughts are our own. Our mind is our own. Our space is our own. No one tells us what to do. We are in control.”
While the book does a pretty good job representing how eighth graders handle the stress and complexity of topics such as religion, queerness, and race, a few dialogue choices sometimes pull me out of the story, like characters saying “Oh snap!” in serious situations. There are also moments where we could have used information sooner. For example, we do not learn that Sydney or Jennings are Muslim until halfway through the book. Since GSA is so much about one’s identity, it seems that this identity would benefit coming in earlier.
“This town we live in has no memory of us or our way of life. We will decide what we want to do.”
An Eighth Grade Gay-Straight Alliance captures the real-world dangers against minority groups and explores the fear that young people experience every day in their homelives, their schooling, and their encounters with strangers. Life is messy, but the book highlights how, despite the dangers and the messiness, life is still worth living. What youth need are not clear answers all the time, but a community and friendship they can always return to.
Sydney Troller - "I'm proud of myself, bullies will kick you around forever if you let them." Sparks fly, and they come close to death, starting a fantastic club, but all the while, they keep sticking together. Why is that?
Brooklyn Jennings - "I wanted this thing to be about doing something and I think we ended up doing too much." Two 8th grade female American Muslims reluctantly fall in love around Modesto, CA.
Two girls — from Modesto—in the 8th grade — fall in love. They’re Muslim. A friend dies. It starts off simply with one watching the other in home room. We learn that they’ve known each other since elementary school but their lives combine as they learn to trust each other.
Gay-Straight Alliance or GSA: A student-led or community-based organization, found in middle schools, high schools, colleges or universities to promote dialogue between sexes.
Growing up in Modesto, CA, is typical; painfully ordinary. Conservative. It’s the mid-west of northern California where Sydney Troller, a neurotic teenager, and Brooklyn Jennings, calm, collected with sunglasses over her glasses, get to know each other. Although they’ve grown up together, they just now decided to combine their forces.