A YA novel by Clint Chico
It’s a tepid night at the end of summer when Marci Torres, who prefers to be referred to as Marcia, and bestie Charlie are on the fifty-yard line of their high school football field and Marcia comes out as gay. She expects hell to break loose, but Charlie, as the best friend she really is, dismisses Marcia’s words by simply saying she already knew.
Marcia feels lighter, since she can finally share her love crushes with Charlie. There is this girl, Shannon Palmer, who plays in the same softball team as Marcia, and also runs the Bible Study Club. Even if Marcia is not a fervent Catholic, she decides to join the club to get to know Shannon better. However, during one of the group meetings Marcia has an altercation with another girl, Ashley. Contrary to Marcia and Shannon, Ashley is very strict on the interpretation of the Bible: it says nowhere that it’s ok to be gay, and it doesn’t matter if present times are different from the times the Bible was written. This confrontation is so cruel that Marcia is brought to tears and runs away, hiding in the toilet. Shannon follows her and calms her down changing topic: they have a softball match coming up in the next few days and Shannon promises that, if they win, the two of them will go out for an ice cream.
They do win the match and Shannon, faithful to her word, meets Marcia for an ice cream, specifying it’s not a date. If Marcia invited her to the freshmen ball, then that would be a date. Marcia dutifully records the message. They chat almost about everything and eventually Shannon opens up about how hard it is for her to live at home with her father, who is deeply religious and a high achiever, and has great ambitions for his daughter. He is constantly beating her up verbally, saying that she can’t do anything, that her efforts are not enough, and this constantly leaves Shannon in a dark place. Marcia feels for her. It’s clear that, in such environment, being gay is just not an option. The whole conversation becomes a ‘please be patient with me, give me some time, don’t be pushy but don’t ignore me’.
Talking to Charlie, Marcia finds out there is no freshmen ball: only junior and senior students will be allowed. Marcia marches to Mrs Williams, the students’ counsellor, explains her situation and she is told that, to promote one, the motion must come from the student council. The elections for representatives are running at the end of the month and Marcia puts herself forward as a candidate. The only problem is she will be running against Ashley. It’s clear from the first day that Ashley is not ready to lose, and she is willing to go the extra mile to make it happen: on Monday morning Marcia finds herself slandered all over social media. It’s a hard blow but it will make Marcia cross paths with Patience Lancaster, who defines herself a ‘sort of a fan’. Patience tell Marcia that her and all her friends hate Ashley too. It gives her the strength to continue her battle to become the next students’ representative.
Speech day comes and both candidates take the podium, but while Ashley’s speech sounds very ‘political’, Marcia’s speech is honest, powerful and most of all, proud. After the longest second of her life, Marcia is mesmerised by a long and loud standing ovation. It’s clear who will win.
But the happy ending is nowhere near.
This is, at a first glance, an unassuming book: the target audience are teenagers, and even though there may be a few repetitions (for example, Shannon is told at least twice that Marcia and Charlie are besties, and the fact that Ashley and Shannon behave politely around each other because their parents are part of the same church is reiterated a number of times), it’s far from being an easy to digest book.
The number of themes discussed is simply astonishing: self-discovery, self-acceptance, coming out, parents-sons relationship, the role of religion in personal lives and choices, domestic sexual abuse, self-harm, attempted suicide, jealousy and conflict. In a light plot the author is able to condense in few, specific words the troubles, the fears, the delightful pains and the awkward happiness of being a teenager. Not only you are discovering yourself, but you are also discovering that you are different from what is expected of you and from the role models you have around, and you need to accept it and deal with it because there is nothing else you can do, even if the only thing you want is to belong, to anything, anywhere, and stop feeling lost and alone. All this narrated with no drama, no judgment, and a lot of hope.
It’s rare to find books so powerful, so well written, with such a beautiful message and self-published. It’s a welcome surprise we want to read more of and will never grow tired of.
‘My name is Marcia’ is book one of a four book series. All other novels by Clint Chico are available at: https://amzn.to/3LdVVXr