Sep 30, 2009

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Nina, Avery and Mel form the Bermudez Triangle: they have been best friends since they were little, and the summer before their senior year they have to face their first long separation. Nina is going to Stanford for a ten-week pre-university program, and Mel and Avery are staying in their home town in upstate New York and working at a newly opened Irish restaurant. In California, Nina meets and falls in love with an eco-warrior from Oregon named Steve. As for Mel and Avery, they fall in love too. With each other. And when Nina returns, they know that nothing will be the same again.

The Bermudez Triangle is an example of my favourite kind of YA: smart, funny, meaningful, peopled with intelligent and sarcastic teenagers who almost make me want to do high school again, only this time with them as my friends. Where were they when I was a teenager? Hiding away in Maureen Johnson’s brain, I guess. But my point still stands!

You might be thinking that this is the exact kind of thing I normally say whenever I finish a book by John Green, and well, you’d be correct. There’s a reason for that: John Green and Maureen Johnson have very distinct voices, but they do seem to share a similar kind of sensibility, not to mention a talent for dialogue and characterization as well as a fondness for nerdy humour that immediately endears them to me. I’d been meaning to read Johnson for a very long time, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

But let me tell you something about the characters that goes beyond my wish that they were my friends. Nina is the most assertive and goal-driven of them all. What she’s dealing with is separate from Avery and Mel’s situation, except that it’s not, because they’re all best friends, after all. I appreciated the fact that Nina was willing to ask herself difficult questions, such as “Am I homophobic?” or “Is this really any of my business?”. As for her relationship with Steve, well, it was mostly in the background, but I wasn’t as dissatisfied with it as I normally am with how long-distance relationships are portrayed in fiction. And even though I worried at one point, there is no What-were-you-even-thinking?-these-things-never-work conclusion to her story. Which isn't to say, of course, that there are no problems.

Avery is the funniest and most sarcastic of the three girls, but she’s also avoidant when it comes to, well, being honest about her feelings. As for Mel, she’s quiet and shy, and much more certain about her sexuality than Avery is. One of my favourite things about this book is how it isn’t afraid to explore all the confusion and grey areas of sexual orientation. Nothing is clear cut. Avery knows she’s attracted to Mel, but she doesn’t know what that means. The fact that they’ve been best friends for so long only complicates matters further.

Friendship is really at the centre of this book—much more so than romantic relationships or sexual orientation, really. You hear a lot about how you have to work at romantic relationships; about how things are never easy, and require commitment and effort and sacrifice. But sadly, you don’t hear half as much about how friendship isn’t really all that different. The Bermudez Triangle reminded me a little of Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List in this regard, even though the books are quite a bit different overall.

Having said that, my favourite scene in the book does have to do with lgbtq issues: it’s the scene in which Mel sort of accidentally comes out to her parents. It was infuriating, but this is only a sign of how well-written it is. Mel’s father is quiet but well-meaning, but her mother is one of those people who worry about what their kid’s actions will say about them. What will people think of her if she has a gay daughter? Think of the gossip, the drama, the scandal!

Considering the amount of controversy surrounding The Bermudez Triangle, I was surprised at how tame it actually is. I said above that Avery struggles with her sexuality, and while this is true, absolutely everything happens off the page. All we see are kisses. There aren’t even any make out scenes. What had people up in arms is really just the fact that two girls fall in love.

I was going to go on about Parker, an adorable and hilarious supporting character, but it’s probably a good idea to wrap things up at this point. So: Read this book! Believe me, you will want to spend time with these characters.

Read Banned Books


Other opinions: Book Nut, Mari Reads, MotherReader, Once Upon a Bookshelf, The Zen Leaf, I'm Here, I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?, Piling on the Books

(Did I miss yours?)

32 comments:

  1. This is one of those times when I let out a big sigh of relief, because I already own this one and don't have to run out immediately (breaking my buying ban) and get it. Your review was wonderful...I can positively tell that I am going to LOVE this book!

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  2. I loved Parker. He was awesome. And the humor in this book! Like I said in my review - anyone who can reference Seventh Heaven with a straight face deserves high amounts of praise!! But seriously, I just loved this. I loved how muddled it was, how no one gets a clean ending. About the controversy, I remember reading one of Johnson's blog posts where she said, "Wow? They have sex? You'd think I'd know about it if they had..." Really, this comes down to being banned because these two girls kiss. Period. Which is sad. :(

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  3. Debi: Yep...you ARE going to love it!

    Amanda: It is sad :( Seriously, all they do is kiss! And I don't even mind actual sex in teen lit, but I understand those controversies better than I do this one. This is a case of prejudice, period.

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  4. I've heard a lot about Maureen Johnson but I have read anything by her yet. This one looks good. I like fun, intelligent YA so I may have to add this to my wishlist :)

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  5. I never heard of this book before, but the character has my name! LOL

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  6. I haven’t read anything by this author. I’m glad you enjoyed this book:)

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  7. This sounds like a really good read and one that I would enjoy. I'm loving Banned Books Week as it is adding so many diverse books to my TBR list. Great review!

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  8. I love a book with controversy! It gives readers a lot to discuss. This one sounds really good.

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  9. Bella: She has an awesome sense of humour!

    Nina: Well, I've picked up books for worse reasons ;)

    Andreea: I had a lot of fun with it :)

    Sam: I'm loving it too!

    Kathy: In this case, the controversy is so puzzling it doesn't even leave much room for discussion! Seriously, the book was so tame it could have been MG.

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  10. Yay Bermudez Triangle! Yay awesome book! (I always get so excited when people love books I've loved too.)

    This is the first Maureen Johnson you've read? Then you must remedy that because her books are all quite awesome in that sort of nerdy humour sort of way. :) I highly recommend Suite Scarlett. And Let It Snow, which she wrote with John Green and Lauren Myracle.

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  11. I don't read many books of this genre, but your review intrigues me more than a little. I like that the characters are all so finely drawn, and that the story is realistic and well told. I thinking I am going to do a bit more research on this book, and see about grabbing a copy. Thanks for the detailed review, it really piqued my interest.

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  12. Sounds vaguely like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants... on steroids.

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  13. :D I just got this on PBS! I feel like I've been saying that way too much lately :/ I have to stop that. At least I'm not BUYING books, right? Doesn't help the TBR pile though...no it doesn't. Anyway, back to the book. This just sounds so good! And even though I've never read anything by her yet, I always look at MJ as a female counterpart to John Green too! Can't wait to read it!!

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  14. I've only read one book by Maureen Johnson and judging from your review, I need to fix that! Thanks for the review.

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  15. I'm on this one...people so need to get over themselves and see the bigger picture out there. I so have to read this one!

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  16. I was already interested in this one, but the mention of John Green makes it even more tempting.

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  17. This sounds like a great YA book. I like books on friendship and just like you've said in your review, it makes me want to go back to high school!

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  18. The fact that two girls falling in love creates 'controversy' makes me so mad! grrr. You should be able to fall in love with whoever you want. jeez.
    This book sounds wonderful :) And I so want to read Looking For Alaska.
    Oh and do pick up your award http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/2009/09/awards-catch-up-come-pick-up-your-award.html

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  19. I love Maureen Johnson's blog, but I always figured all her books were more well written teen chick-lit, which I was pretty sure I wanted to read. I had no idea she had written a book with a gay romance, now I must get on with reading her books even more!

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  20. I loved the bit about Mel's mother worrying what people will think of her having a gay daughter. I wonder how many parents think the same way, worrying about themselves rather than helping their children be who they are. I would not be bothered in the slightest if my kids came out, yet my parents would have hit the roof. I suppose it the generations that we grow up in that affect our beliefs and acceptability of different situations. Great book to read.

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  21. I am on a Maureen Johnson kick and this is the one I read most recently. I love her wit and insight into teenage life. I think it is one of the best YA novels I have read in a while and I look forward to reading more of her books

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  22. Maureen Johnson... I feel as if I've read this author before but I can't remember.

    Anyway, this sounds great. I was curious to hear about it when you left me a comment on the banned book post. Will be adding it to my list!

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  23. I'm not going to wade through the comments. I'll just say: spot-on review. Nice. :-) (I want to go back to HS with Maureen Johnson and John Green as my friends. It'd be more fun that way.)

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  24. I don't think I've read anything by this author. I'll definitely have to check this out. Thanks for your lovely review, Nymeth! :)

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  25. Court: I actually have read Let it Snow (and loved it!), but this was my first "solo" Maureen Johnson book. Now I want to read them all :P

    Zibilee: Embrace YA! You know you want to :P The characterization really is top notch.

    She: lol!

    Chris: ha, as have I with Bookmooch :P Maureen Johnson is hilarious. I've just recently started stalking her on twitter, and she cracks me up.

    S. Krishna: And I need to fix it myself!

    Staci: They definitely do. It's probably VERY naive of me to even wonder this, but do they realize what calling a book like this "dirty" and trying to do away with it will make a gay teen feel? Probably some do and just don't care :(

    Jill: They have different styles, but there's definitely an affinity there.

    Alice: I really like books on friendship too - especially when they're funny and not mushy but touching all the same like this one is.

    Ari: It makes me mad too :/ Thank you so much for the award :D And yes, do read Alaska! It's a brilliant book.

    Jodie, I think you'll love this! And I need to subscribe to her blog...I occasionally read it and love it every time. I have no idea why I haven't yet.

    Vivienne: Sadly, I think that many still do. But I definitely agree that it's slowly but surely getting better. In some parts of the world, at least.

    Caite: I can see why this is one of your favourites! I need to read everything she's written.

    Iliana: Have you read Let It Snow? It's as Christmas anthology she contributed to. Maybe it was there?

    Melissa: ha! It would :D

    Melody: You do! She's awesome.

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  26. Never heard of the term eco-warrior before. Oh, this sounds like such a good, open-minded story!

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  27. Nymeth - if you liked this you need to try 13 Little Blue Envelopes...it is amazing and will make you want to travel the world! Devilish wasn't quite as good, but still worth reading

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  28. I kind of want to read this. I have to wait, though. I banned myself from the library because all my holds caught up with each other and are coming in all at the same time!

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  29. I've had this out of the library at least three times. Why haven't I read it?

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  30. Ooh, I'm glad to hear you liked this one! Someone left it in my "suggestion box" so I'm waiting for it to come in at the library. I'm generally an MJ fan, but it sounds like this is one of her best. :)

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  31. I loved Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and I've been meaning to read this one. Sounds like I'd better get to it soon!

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  32. I love this book too! And Nina and I have the same name so... I also did a review for this one you can check it out on my blog at http://buoyreading.blogspot.com, I love reading too and maybe you could give me some recommendations for good books. Have a nice day!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.