K.E. Payne, 2012. This sweet story of first love starts out a bit expository, as protagonist Imogen discovers the joy of online friends via a message board about a popular TV show, but picks up quickly as she starts crushing on girls….GIRLS! She freaks a little, tries the old “if I have sex with a boy, I’m straight, right?” and loses her virginity to her boyfriend Matt. Then she gets a giant crush on a cute girl from the message board, dumps Matt, and has a two-week lesbo fling before her heart is broken. Finally, she finds love in the arms of another online acquaintance who’s been a solid rock of a friend all along. They live happily ever after.
Payne gets a lot right here – the insanity of first teen love kicked up a notch by the fact that they’re both girls and think it’s normal to say “I love you” before they’ve even kissed is a great example. The way Imogen casually uses Matt even while she feels guilty about it is another, since it humanizes the character a bit. The only missteps come in the way Payne reveals the plot primarily through IM chat logs, message board posts, emails, and text messages. That device itself works well, but Payne’s made the choice to have her characters use print-caliber grammar, spelling, and punctuation, which makes the story more readable but far less realistic.
The other big problem is that Immy starts out as, seemingly, a complete Internet novice. This just isn’t realistic for a middle-class college student in 2011, particularly one who has a computer in her room and who awakens so quickly to the delights of online friendship and love. How could it be true that Immy’s never heard of IM before?
Still, a fresh, clean look at first girl/girl love and all of its baggage. Recommended.