Marjetta Geerling–Fancy White Trash

The What: Abby’s family is a Jerry Springer episode waiting to happen. Her mother is married to Steve, who is also the ex of both of Abby’s sisters, and the father of one of their babies. Her father is rarely around, and is trying to convince her mother to marry him for a third (!) time. Her best friend, Cody, is struggling to accept his sexuality in the face of rampant homophobia. And Abby’s got feelings for Cody’s brother Jackson, who might or might not be the father of her sister Kait’s baby… oh, the drama llama’s hooves are going to be sore tonight.

The Good: This book is hilarious, and not at the expense of its characters. Jeff Foxworthy’s career alone shows that there is money to be made from ripping on the working class, but Geerling doesn’t take any cheap shots. Abby holds her family accountable for their antics, but she keeps a sense of perspective and compassion while she does it. Whether they’re working class or not, teens and adults will relate to the feeling of finding family at once exasperating and beloved. Abby is a well-defined character who seamlessly blends ambition, loyalty, and a die-hard love of soap operas. Her romance with Jackson moves at an intriguing simmer. Her relationships with her sisters, parents, and nieces show great attention to character development; their interactions are informed by their histories and personalities. Brava.

The Meh: Elbow me if I’m being too cranky here, but queer readers don’t need another teen character whose page time is largely spent on 1) getting harassed for being gay, 2) denying he’s gay, and 3) coming out to non-supportive homophobic parents. Cody denies his sexuality, snipes about fashion, and is hyper-organized: sure, he’s believable, and sure, he could really exist. I want to give credit where it’s due here. That said, could straight writers please write more queer characters who are not self-loathing? Who meet with supportive friends and family? Whose major emotional sinkholes do not include, “Oh noes, I have the gay!”?

Hand It To: Chick lit fans who are tired of reading about rich people, the Meg Cabot/Sarah Dessen crowd, romance fans, reluctant readers.