Down to the Bone by Myra Lazara Dole
ISBN-13: 978-0060843106
HarperTeen, New York, 2008
384 p.

GENRE: LGBT Fiction

TEASER: When Lara gets kicked out of her Catholic school and gets kicked out of her home for loving a girl, she tries to deny her sexuality. But because Lara is free spirited and has wonderful, supportive friends, she just might find happiness and love.

SUMMARY: When Lara gets kicked out of her Catholic school because she’s dating a girl, the last thing she needs is for her strict Cuban mother to kick her out of her home unless she reveals who her girlfriend is. To make matters worse, Lara’s girlfriend is shipped off to Cuba and forced to marry a man. Fortunately, Lara has a great best friend who gives her a place to stay. Through love, friendship, and heartbreak Lara learns who her true family is and how to be herself.

CRITIQUE: The book is told in a first-person point of view through Lara. The language is very casual. Because this book is set in Miami’s Cuban community, there is a lot of broken English used in the novel. This adds to the authenticity of the setting. There is a translation section at the back of the book. I understood most of the spanish; however, if you do not know any Spanish, it might get a bit confusing. This might have been prevented by putting the translation section at the front. This is a problem I have seen with a few books I have read, both adult and young adult. This is a minor complaint, if that, and does not affect the overall quality of the book.

I really enjoyed the books positive spirit. The author gives a very positive light to this story. Even when Lara is kicked out of her home and forbidden from seeing her brother, the mood and language of the book still feel cheerful and upbeat. I also appreciated seeing an LGBT character who has so much love and support. Her mother is of course not supportive and refuses to understand her daughter. However, I was very moved by Soli and Viva’s characters. They opened up their hearts and their home to her without question. You see very early on that they are her true family.

You certainly see development from Lara’s character. Lara is in denial that she is a lesbian in the beginning. She can admit that she is in love with another girl but she doesn’t think that makes her gay. Once she realizes that she is only attracted to girls, she still tries to deny that she is a lesbian for fear that it will mean she never gets to see her little brother again. She dates a guy in order to convince her mother that she is not a lesbian. The pressure to be someone she is not becomes too much, and she must tell her mother that she will have to learn to accept her as she is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Myra Lazara Dole is a Cuban American author who was born in Havana and grew up in Miami. Like her character Lara, she was kicked out of her school when she was thirteen for a confiscated note written by her girlfriend.

Aside from being an author, she has been a hairdresser, a dancer, a landscape designer, and library assistant. She has also been a Lambda Literary judge. Down to the Bone has made the ALA Best Books for YA 2009. It is also on Booklist’s Top Ten Novels, ALA Rainbow List, and CCBC Top Choices.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://mayraldole.wordpress.com/

READING LEVEL: 15+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some might object to the portrayal of a homosexual relationship or transsexuality.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: LGBT Studies

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Parts of this novel were adapted from Dole’s real life. Do you think that made the writing more honest and touching?

WHY INCLUDED: I found this book while looking for LGBT novels with non-Caucasian characters. Dole’s novels is one of the few LGBT books with Latin-American characters.

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