Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden is a young adult problem/romance novel. Two high school senior girls fall in love and explore life and love as a homosexual couple. Set in Massachusetts, the girls' schools, homes and local sites are described. The story begins with Eliza writing a letter to Annie that begins this way: "What I have to do, I think, before I can mail you a letter, is sort out what happened. I have to work through it all again-- everything-- the bad parts, but the good ones too" (p.5). And so begins Eliza's recollection of her senior year, her relationship with Annie and the problems that ensue at her prep school.
The relationship begins when Eliza meets Annie in museum. Annie is singing and Eliza is drawn to it. They begin play-acting along a medieval theme: knights and maidens, unicorns and jousting. They exchange phone numbers and get in touch again later. As their friendship deepens, Annie says this: "I want to be in the real world with you, Liza, for you, but--but were still running away. Or you are, or--Liza, I dont want to be afraid of this, of--of the physical part of loving you" (p. 121).
Two lesbian (closet) teachers that work at Foster Academy (Liza's school) hire her to cat sit during a break. Annie and Liza have the privacy needed to explore the physical side of their relationship. They discover from some books in the house that the teachers are lesbians too. When they get caught in the house, half dressed, by Ms Baxter, a school employee, the whole thing turns sour. Liza has to appear before the school trustees regarding the incident, along with her parents. Nothing goes into Liza's permanent school records, which could have damaged her chances to get into her dream college, MIT. The lesbian teachers are fired (the message being the unfairness of the system against homosexuals). The book ends with the two teen lovers, now in college, speaking on the phone across the continent, Liza in Massachusetts and Annie in California. They are excited at the thought of being reunited at the Christmas break. The relationship will continue.
A recent article in School Library Journal said this about the book: "Before Annie's unprecedented arrival, gay and lesbian literature for young adults was all but nonexistent" (p. 48). It is deemed a Best of the Best books for Young Adults by the ALA and School Library Journal named it one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. In my humble opinion, this book is a yawner. Honestly, I couldnt keep my eyes open and had to force myself to keep on. The dialogue is uninteresting and the whole story is predictable. I think that anyone who reads this book will agree with me that if it weren't about homosexuality, if Annie had been Arnold, it wouldn't have gone to print. The only reason this book has received the attention that it has is because it is dealing with a trendy, up-and-coming issue. True, it may meet the needs of some questioning teenagers. I realize that it is an important book in that it was one of the first books to openly address teenage homosexuality. I hesitate to recommend it to teenagers just because it is boring and outdated. Surely there have been more contemporary and interesting works on the subject since this one appeared in 1982.
In my opinion this book exudes liberal didacticism. Written by a homosexual woman, it is clearly promoting the gay lifestyle as evident from the passage on page 161 (among others); Liza writes this to Annie: "I read somewhere the other day that love is a good as long as its honest and unselfish and hurts no one. That people's biological sex doesn't matter when it comes to love; that there have always been gay people; that there are even some gay animals and many bisexual ones; that other societies have accepted and do accept gays, so maybe our society is backward. My mind believes that Annie." I also question the cover on this edition. It looks as if the lovers are praying. However, there is no indication in the book that they have any interest in spiritual matters. The only Christian in the book has a pinched personality and is stereotyped as being being narrow-minded.
Garden, Nancy. 1982. ANNIE ON MY MIND. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN: 0-374-40414-3.
Jenkins, Christine A. 2003. Annie on her mind. School Library Journal 49(6): 48-50. In EBSCOhost [database online]. Available from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.epnet.com/login.asp Accessed on 18 September 03.