Once upon a time, being homosexual in a YA novel meant you were the sidekick, if you were lucky.’  If you were the main character, you could be abused, raped, beaten, or even killed.’  Homosexual characters didn’t get happy endings–until Annie on My Mind.

Annie on My Mind
Nancy Garden
Published 1982

The copy of Annie on My Mind that I got from my library includes a telling quote from School Library Journal:’  “No single work has done more for young adult LGBT fiction than this classic about two teenage girls who fall in love.”‘  In a few words, the appeal of this novel is summed up.’  Nancy Garden creates a touching love story that survives amidst prejudice and opposition, while managing to not preach or judge.

Liza and Annie meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.’  Liza, practical and level-headed, plans to become an architect.’  Annie is dreamy and emotional, an ideal temperament for the singer she wants to become.’  When they meet there’s a connection.’  They can be silly and play make-believe, or serious as they talk about anything.’  They make time for each other after school and on weekends, and soon Annie is all Liza can think about.’  Even though they’re from different worlds–Liza attends a private school and lives in Brooklyn Heights, while Annie goes to public school and lives in a run-down apartment–the two girls fall in love.’  Being two girls in love feels right, although they never seem to find a way to be alone together.’  So when Liza and Annie have a chance to do that, by using the house where two of Liza’s teachers live, they take it.’  But their actions have wide-ranging consequences, and not just for them.

Annie on My Mind brings to life what New York was like in the early 1980s.’  Yet the novel isn’t dated.’  Part of that is the descriptions of museums and parks, places that haven’t really changed in the intervening years.’  The Temple of Dendur at the Met is still clear and bright, as described by Garden.’  But in the same breath, we see a New York that doesn’t really exist anymore–or at least we hope it doesn’t.’  Because in this New York, discrimination is commonplace.’  Liza’s school, which is on the verge of closing, is run by Mrs. Poindexter according to her rigid standards.’  Although her actions against Liza leads to her dismissal, Mrs. Poindexter’s disgust of the homosexual lifestyle hurts more than just Liza, but also the teachers Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer.’  And while the trustees disapprove of Mrs. Poindexter’s handling of this situation, they can’t deny that the school can’t employ homosexual teachers.

Adding realism to the story is the progress of Annie and Liza’s relationship.’  When Annie on My Mind opens, it is six months after the end of high school.’  Liza has pulled away from Annie, dealing with the guilt she feels over her actions.’  Liza blames herself for what happened to her teachers.’  She also looks at Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer and sees the future she wants: living with Annie, being as comfortable together as two old shoes.’  But while that’s what Liza wants, it’s also scary.’  So Liza spends an early winter evening remembering how she and Annie fell in love and how a few people nearly destroyed them.’  And those memories help Liza make a decision, to not give up all she feels for Annie.’  Ending with a telephone reconciliation and an exchange of love, Garden doesn’t punish Annie or Liza for being lesbians.

A story of love and its power, Annie on My Mind shows that homosexuality is not evil or perverted or wrong.’  Once classified as a mental illness, homosexuality is now seen as little different from eye color: it’s one thing that makes a person who they are.’  That change of opinion has happened in part thanks to novels like Annie on My Mind.’  How lucky we are, to see what a good book can do!

About Melissa Rabey

I'm a teen librarian for a library system in Maryland. I became a librarian because I love books, I love technology, and I wanted to connect people with those two things. I'm happy that I get to do all this and even more.

3 Thoughts on “New to Me: Annie on My Mind

  1. Another title you might be interested in is HERO by Perry Moore, published in 2007 by Hyperion, New York. Also appealing to males, HERO is an action packed story that begins on the high school basketball court. As Thom becomes more confident about his sexuality he lusts after various people and then finally falls in love with Goran. This book is like reading a super hero comic book without the drawings. All the things you would normally see in pictures are written out for you. It features characters such as: Thom Creed, an athletic gay high school student who develops super hero powers; Hal Creed, Thom’s father (aka. Major Might) a super hero who had no other-worldly powers but still managed to become one of the most beloved super heroes, until his fall from grace, that is; Scarlett, a super hero who is able to control fire but has a very bad temper. She also has cancer; Typhoid Larry who literally makes people sick just by his presence; Ruth who is able to see the future; Coach, a minor character who is present only at the beginning of the book but is used by the author to set an anti-gay tone that pervades the high school and the town itself; Uberman, the super hero that Thom admires; Justice, the super hero who turns out to be bad; and Goran, Thom’s super hero in the end.
    Perry Moore is the executive producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films, author of a book about making THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, author and director (with his partner Hunter Hill) of the feature film, LAKE CITY. HERO is his first novel.
    If you are interested in gay & lesbian Y/A literature, this is a must read!

  2. Sarah Wright on October 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm said:


    I am really glad you enjoyed the book and took the time to review it on the YALSA blog! I wanted to point out that the GLBTRT does book reviews in our newsletter, including some young adult titles. You can check out issues at the following website: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/rts/glbtrt/news/index.cfm

    The Vast Fields of Ordinary and 10,000 dresses werre reviewed in our Summer newsletter.

    As long as we are talking about YA literature with GLBT themes, I wanted to add as well that the Stonewall Book Award presented by the GLBTRT has added an award for children’s and young adult literature to be presented for the first time at Annual in DC.

  3. Jessica on March 13, 2010 at 4:56 am said:

    I always want to see the Movie of Annie on my mind this is a beautiful story

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