Teen Novel Provides Fresh Insight on Struggles of the LGBTQ Community

by Natalie Murray ‘18

After the results of the 2016 presidential election were released, LGBTQ crisis and suicide hotlines understandably received a substantial number of calls. The eight years that Obama served as U.S. President saw lots of progress for the LGBTQ community, most notably the Supreme Court’s ruling in “Obergefell v. Hodges,” in which same-sex couples finally got the right to marry in all 50 states. But President Donald Trump and his openly anti-LGBTQ Vice President, Mike Pence, are causing many gay and transgender individuals to fear for their rights and for their safety.

The divisions over LGBTQ rights are excellently portrayed in the book “The Inside of Out” by Jenn Marie Thorne. The young adult novel is told by a straight protagonist named Daisy. In an effort to support her lesbian best friend in the highly religious and conservative atmosphere of their public school in Charleston, South Carolina, Daisy joins the LGBTQ club. To prove her loyalty to the skeptical members of the club, Daisy decides to formally challenge the school board’s rule prohibiting students from bringing same-sex dates to dances. With a moving and pointed speech made in a school board meeting, Daisy is certain that she has won the battle.

Unfortunately for Daisy, the school board has other ideas. After getting wind of Daisy’s plan to challenge the rule, the school board cancels the homecoming dance so that they won’t be forced to change their homophobic policies. When this happens, Daisy vows to create an entirely new homecoming that is unaffiliated with the school, so that anyone and everyone can go. A budding reporter catches this story, and it soon turns into national news: “Lesbian Challenges Unconstitutional School Rule; School Responds by Shutting Down Dance; Student to Make LGBTQ-Friendly Dance.” The LGBTQ club begins getting nationwide support and funding.

The problem? Daisy is straight, but with so much press coverage in favor of its cause, the club decides that it’s too risky to “out” Daisy as a heterosexual, in fear that this will cause them to lose much of their support. But their stories become more difficult to retain when many of the locals protest the club’s idea for an LGBTQ-positive dance and begin finding any and every way to oppose their cause.

Daisy’s struggle to remain “closeted” about her sexuality gives straight readers a new insight on what it’s like to have to stay quiet about your sexuality, or risk your reputation. It also provides an interesting and ironic twist on the difficulty that LGBTQ individuals find themselves in — one that is represented by many other characters in the book.

In addition, “The Inside of Out” touches upon numerous other issues that plague the LGBTQ community, like unsupportive parents, hate crimes, bullying, conversion therapy, and religious struggles.

But despite its focus on such widely-debated and issues “The Inside of Out” has excellent comedic elements, and manages to remain lighthearted despite the severity of the discussed topics.
Additionally, the complicated interpersonal relationships between Daisy and many of the supporting characters in the book contribute to numerous plot twists, but the author portrays them in a reasonable and non-campy way; because of the events of the book and the personalities of the characters, the twists seem natural rather than forced.

Due to its topical relevance, relatable characters, and high school drama, “The Inside of Out” is a perfect read for anyone who enjoys a heartwarming teen read or wants a new perspective on LGBTQ rights.

Grade: A