As a late-blooming, sexually-confused senior at the University of Pennsylvania, Audrey Beth Stein was looking for love, but she never expected it to arrive via email, from someone she first knew only as firstname.lastname@example.org…
It was 1996, a time when the Indigo Girls had just performed their first explicitly gay songs, Ellen DeGeneres was preparing to come out on national television, and eHarmony.com and JDate did not yet exist. A time when being queer was a little bit easier than admitting you’d met someone through the internet.
Using layers of introspection and insight reminiscent of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and Wendy Swallow’s Breaking Apart woven into a largely present-tense narrative, this coming-of-age memoir combines the page-turning exuberance of falling in love for the first time, the disorienting clarity of loss, and the triumph of letting go of the training wheels.
This isn’t like anything we’ve ever featured on yaReads before. Map isn’t a work of fiction; it’s an actual account of Audrey’s life experiences. Because of that, I feel that talking about her in a way I would normally discuss a fictional character’s motivations and actions is inappropriate – she’s a real person with real feelings who bravely decided to share her story with the world. But this is a review, so I’ll comment on those things that are appropriately open for comment and discussion.
Map reads a lot like fiction. So much so, in fact, that unless you noted the word ‘memoir’ on the cover, it could easily be mistaken as so. This is a credit to Audrey, as it is so often the case that biographies, or true and factual stories are often dry, written without the engaging dialogue and internal monologue that we all love so much about young adult fiction. It deals with Audrey’s sexual self-discovery and her journey into the world of bisexuality with class, poise, and honesty. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her process of coming out (to herself and those around her) was all smooth sailing, it was refreshing to hear a coming out tale that wasn’t completely and totally heart breaking.
Map is so much more than just a tale of coming out, though. It’s a story of first love, first heartbreak and loss, growth and personal development. I was especially interested in the online relationship that developed between Catrina and Audrey. Audrey’s account detailed a different kind of falling in love to what we’re used to reading about. With online relationships, it’s less about the physical, and more about the emotional – her take on these issues is refreshing, and a joy to read in an era where so much is placed on physical sexuality.
This is an easy one to read, folks, and I’m sure most of you out there could knock it over in no time. So if you’re looking for a left of center read about a young girl’s journey through sexuality, then I’d say Map is a must read for you. If you’re looking for a queer read that wont totally crush your spirit and burn your soul, then I’d say Map is for you. If you’re looking for something full of action and suspense, perhaps steer clear of this one. This one is more about the mind and the heart than the actual goings on of the plot.
This one has the yaReads stamp of approval.
Teaser Quote: A few years later, when I haven’t been drawn to men in a while, I’ll start using the word queer to describe myself. I’ll choose queer because queer will fit me better than bisexual or lesbian, because queer places less emphasis on sex and more on overall identity, because it carries a connotation of confidence and empowerment, because there is space for fluidity inside, because it encompasses a larger community, because it wont be such a scary, radical word to me anymore, because it is one bold and easy syllable.