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Brooke Skipstone
Author
The Moonstone Girls
Tracy should have been a boy. Even her older brother Spencer says so, though he wouldn’t finish the thought with, “And I should have been a girl.” Though both feel awkward in their own skin, they have to face who they are—queers in the late 60s. When both are caught with gay partners, their lives and futures are endangered by their homophobic father as their mother struggles to defend them. While the Vietnam War threatens to take Spencer away, Tracy and her father wage a war of their own, each trying to save the sweet, talented pianist. At seventeen, Tracy dresses as a boy and leaves her parents in turmoil, with only the slimmest hope of finding peace within herself. She journeys to a girl with a guitar, calling to her from a photo, "Come to Alaska. We'd be great friends." Maybe even The MoonStone Girls.
Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot/Idea: Each queer person's experience is unique, and Skipstone has highlighted this well in her newest novel, The Moonstone Girls. Showcasing the personalities, lives, emotions, and young love of multiple gay folks in the late sixties, Skipstone has written a work that not only is delightful to read for its pure teenaged romance, but also because it lends much-needed representation to those who suffer from living in homophobic households.

Prose: Skipstone knows how to write romance, and writes it well. Skillfully avoiding the cringeworthy in her prose, she is able to feature plenty of steamy scenes that perfectly capture the intense, hormonal feelings of young love.

Originality: The Moonstone Girls is a classic coming-of-age story with a handful of large twists. Working with common themes, such as the trope of the abusive, homophobic father, the suffering and sensitive musician, and the brash tomboy, there are definitely some stereotypes present. However, Skipstone is skilled at character development and delving into the complexities of these figures' inner workings, which makes the relative tropes function well.

Character Development/Execution: The relationships between characters, along with their motivations, feelings, and desires, are beautifully clear. The characters in this book spring to life, feeling like friends with whom the reader would love to go on a raucous adventure.

Date Submitted: April 04, 2022

Reviews
At the beginning of Skipstone’s (Crystal’s House of Queers) spirited coming-of-age tale, 16-year-old Tracy Franks feels trapped: she’s stifled by the strict gender norms of her 1960s Texas town, her tyrannical father badgers and degrades her and her brother, and she must keep her attraction to her friend Ava a careful secret. When she discovers a brochure for a women-run summer camp in Alaska with a girl named Jackie on its cover, Tracy sees an opportunity to break free. Faced with discrimination, uncertainty, and even tragedy, she is nevertheless determined to live as her true self.

Tracy’s talents as a musician help her negotiate her world, and music lovers will appreciate the prominent role it plays within the story. Skipstone embeds a wide variety of references to both classical music and popular songs of the late 60s, enhanced by a suggested Spotify playlist, as well as the lyrics of the songs Tracy herself writes to express her anger, angst, longing, and love. Framed as an autobiography, Tracy’s passionate first-person narration vibrates with intense emotion and explicit detail, allowing readers to experience her fury, frustration, and excitement as she strives to live life on her own terms.

In her fight to live authentically, Tracy proves herself to be a protagonist ahead of her time, using casual profanity, wearing a “manguise” so she can be perceived as male, and aggressively confronting male characters who try to hold her back. Though her progressive attitudes towards politics, race, gender, and sexuality are more common in our time than they were in hers, readers will find this character’s revolutionary courage inspiring. Skipstone’s other main players are also well-developed–even those that serve as obstacles to Tracy’s progress. This story’s impassioned cry against repression will encourage readers to face their own challenges with strength and determination.

Takeaway: The inspiring and emotional story of a young lesbian’s journey toward wholeness in Texas in the 1960s.

Great for fans of: M-E Girard’s Girl Mans Up, Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath, Lauren Hough’s Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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