EMPRESS OF THE WORLD

Sara Ryan, Author
Sara Ryan, Author . Viking $15.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-670-89688-2
Reviewed on: 07/23/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-0-14-250059-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 224 pages - 978-1-101-11326-4
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-101-11155-0
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-101-11839-9
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While the characters in this first novel are not fully developed and the dialogue often feels clunky, Ryan nonetheless surpasses many of the trappings of stereotypical gay teen representations. At a summer school program for the gifted, anthropology student Nicola, or "Nic," pens everything in her "field notes," from over-scripted exchanges with her dimensionless new friends, like outspoken redhead Katrina and spacey music student Kevin ("It's like we're in a chat room and he's got a really slow connection") to painfully detailed descriptions of their clothes. Nic's driving need to label everything wears at her fledgling relationship with Southern belle Battle (tension comes to a head on their "two-week anniversary"). Ryan is to be applauded for taking this story beyond an identity struggle; at story's end, Nic is unsure if she is a lesbian or bisexual, but she comes to accept her feelings without having to label herself, and learns to tolerate outsiders' judgments. Mostly she grapples with the ordinary drama and traumas of teen romance. Ryan also does not shy away from describing the physical relationship between Nic and Battle (though nothing beyond kissing is made explicit). Her story unfolds slowly and, ultimately ends up feeling unpolished, but many teens will be drawn to the subject matter, and Nic herself is an appealing heroine. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

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