This is one of those books I found lying around in the family bookcase, that I figured I'd read because, why not? I've been pleasantly surprised by bargain buys my dad has brought home before. It was kind of beat up, the colorful cover torn up, with dogeared, stained pages, and even a couple of pages torn out*, that didn't exactly cry out 'this is a respected book'. Why, yes. I do often judge a book by its cover.
That first impression never really changed for me. There's something so sad about a disappointing book. Like you know there could be something there, and sometimes you get glimpses of what could be something interesting or exciting, but that's quickly lost in the unimpressive whole. This book was just that. Not awful, but just not very good either. At least it's a fast read.
Stevie is a college-aged black girl living in the mid-1970s, still unsure of herself and her own sexuality. She's a perfectly normal girl: smart, funny and opinionated, who is just trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. On a trip to San Francisco with some friends, she discovers she's rather intrigued by the gay and lesbian scene she sees there on display for the very first time in her life. So she decides to stay there, exploring her attraction to women and the gay lifestyle, really getting to know herself in the process. Sinclair explores race and sexuality through Stevie's naive and sometimes prudish eyes as she opens herself up to a new kind of culture.
But it's only sort of interesting. Stevie meets a lot of characters, but most of them feel flat and cliched, and they quickly becoming annoying. I don't know if Sinclair really intended for everyone to talk in bad, forced 70s slang ("You go, girl!", "this deserves a Zorro snap!", "I'm not trippin, yo!"), but it felt like she was trying way too hard to set this in the 70s for some reason. I don't really understand why this had to be set in the 70s at all. Yes, it was an important time for gay culture, but Sinclair doesn't really explore why. The story could have been set today (or in 1994 when it was written) and I don't think it would've made the slightest bit of difference. I think it just makes the 70s slang and stereotypes feel that much more forced and fake. Maybe they were fresh and real in the 70s, but as I was reading it, it sounded almost like a parody.
Nothing really exciting happens, either, which is a problem if your characters aren't very exciting. Stevie goes to parties, she meets people, she does drugs, she has sex. But nothing seems really significant, nothing really connects. Stevie seems to get emotional, but we only know that because she starts using a lot of exclamation points. In fact, her fights and reactions are just laughable sometimes.
Too bad. It could've been a fun and witty look into sexuality and race, instead it turns into a weird trip into 70s nostalgia, with no real substance and just a lot of bad slang.
*Two pages. I didn't even care. Whatever happened in them didn't really matter, because nothing makes any impact in this book.