Jay Meryl

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 287

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An assertive, healthy lesbian parent is featured in … [Breaking Up], one of the few books for teenagers which presents homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.

On a summer visit to her re-married father in California, fifteen-year-old, middle-class Ali develops a gradual awareness, understanding and eventual acceptance of her mother Cynthia's relationship with Peggy….

Throughout the novel, Ali becomes clearer about her own sexuality as well…. Such issues as jealousy, sexual relationships, divorce, pregnancy, abortion and love are explored realistically and matter-of-factly.

I have several criticisms of the book. Although the usual stereotypes of lesbians (masculine, man-hating, unsatisfied women) are contradicted, not enough information is provided about Cynthia and Peggy's relationship. Ali and her mother have a moving discussion about Cynthia's lifestyle, but it does not tell the reader much about her mother's daily life, personality or beliefs.

In addition, the negative comments about the lesbian lifestyle from Ali's father are left uncontradicted, even when Ali decides to return to New York. Readers could conclude that Harold's biased opinions are valid.

Furthermore, homosexuality is not presented as an option for teenagers in this book, though there is clearly a character (Ali's best friend Gretchen) who does not fit into heterosexual roles. Gretchen is very attached to Ali and does not have an interest in boys, yet the reader is left with the impression that she will grow up lonely and unfulfilled.

Characterization is occasionally stilted….

Despite my reservations, it is enlightening to see a novel which deals with lesbianism in a positive way and credits teenagers with the ability to make decisions for themselves and to feel deeply for each other.

Jay Meryl, in a review of "Breaking Up," in Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1981, p. 19.


Norma Bagnall


Deborah Hollander