When I was 14 and 15 years old, I knew that there was something ‘different’ about me. My female friendships were too intense, and every time I wondered why I didn’t want to date the boys in my grade, I’d dissolve into a panicked mess. So, I sought comfort where I’d always found it before: Between the pages of books.
This time, though, as I searched for representations of girls like me, I still felt like something was missing. In the fiction section, I lost myself in stories by Julie Anne Peters and Nancy Garden, knowing with each passing page that I could maybe, one day, fall in love with the girl on the swim team or in the museum, too. But when I looked up from each book, I was forced to face the reality that the girls I identified with were fictional. I still wondered who I could truly relate to in real life.
The nonfiction section of the library was a disappointment at the time, only offering advice for parents of LGBT children and informative volumes that read like textbooks. For a short but painful period of time, I felt myself to be completely alone in my tiny town.
I wish I had found Lucy Sutcliffe’s Girl Hearts Girl on the shelf at my public library six or seven years ago — but now, at 21, I’m still grateful to have read her story. Lucy’s memoir begins with her early childhood in a small town in England, moves through her time at school and university, navigates her coming out process, and describes the ups and downs of her long distance relationship with her girlfriend Kaelyn.
The memoir continues up until the very day that Lucy finished writing it on the balcony of the apartment she now shares with Kaelyn in Arizona. It concludes on a hopeful note, and the final pages feel as though Lucy is speaking directly to her reader — a true testament to Lucy’s intimate, powerful writing.
As fans of the couple already know, Lucy and Kaelyn have a joint YouTube channel that they started over four years ago as a way to document their trips to visit one another when they were long distance. Seemingly overnight, the channel’s popularity skyrocketed and has now attracted over 26 million views.
“We’ve tried our best to utilize our internet platform as a community building tool, to bring together groups of people who can talk to one another when they need a friend, some advice, or simply a shoulder to cry on,” Lucy writes.
Kaelyn and Lucy’s sincerity and love can be felt right through the screen, so it’s no wonder that they’ve amassed such a community online. In fact, Lucy’s viewers pre-ordered her book so quickly after its announcement that Scholastic UK promptly decided to push the release date up from August 4 to June 24.
Girl Hearts Girl is full of original turns of phrase and vivid description. Though I’ve never been to any small town in England, I found myself easily picturing the fields where Lucy and her friends would gather, or the Big Dipper sparkling against the dark country sky. I felt a flip in my stomach when Lucy describes receiving a new email from Kaelyn in the earliest phases of their relationship. These are all the feelings I was looking for in a book when I was 14 — but with a bit more excitement, because this girl is real, and her story is true and possible.
Lucy writes for a younger audience, penning the book she would’ve liked to have read as a young girl, but she never waters down her feelings or experiences. She writes openly and truthfully about her anxiety and encounters with bullies. I love that Lucy respects her younger population of readers by speaking to them in the voice of an equal, while still managing to offer advice that often lies between the lines. Simply telling her story is enough to get across the main message in her brief introduction: “It gets better.”
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