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YA CONTEMPORARY NOVEL DISCUSSES BIPHOBIA AND BI ERASURE

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

About a month or so ago, the LGTBQ+ community was celebrating #BiWeek― a week to spread bisexual awareness and promote its cultural acceptance. Whilst bisexuality is one of the most known sexualities, it doesn’t prevent bisexuals from being questioned and judged for their romantic and sexual attractions. The thing is, bisexuality means being attracted to more than one gender; it does not mean that one day you wake up heterosexual and another day homosexual. Perfect On Paper by Sophie Gonzales discusses this topic in a perfect way. I think topics like internalized biphobia and bi erasure are immensely important to discuss, know and learn; yet it’s not often that we see these issues receive that much attention from the public eye and the media, in general. This article will review Gonzales’ book as well as talk about the biphobia within our own community. 

Darcy Philips is a sixteen-year-old junior that goes unnoticed by mostly everyone, except her best friend Brookeーwhom she’s very much in love withーand the members of the Queer & Questioning Club at her school. However, she has been hiding something from everyone, especially Brooke. Darcy has been anonymously collecting letters from locker eighty-nine and providing relationship advice to everyone at school for a fee. No one knows about her, not even her best friend, because if Brooke knew, she may hate her forever. All of this changes one day, when Alexander Brougham catches her collecting the letters from the locker. In exchange for maintaining her identity anonymous, he hires Darcy to help him get his ex back. Nothing could go wrong… right?

Darcy, our protagonist, came out as bisexual when she was young. Since then, it has become a key part of her identity. She knows she’s bisexual, there’s no doubt about it. However, multiple people in her life have made her think that something in her was wrong. Liking a girl made her feel queer, but liking a guy didn’t. Internalized biphobia and bi erasure are topics that, weirdly enough, are not widely spoken of at all. The thing with biphobia is that it’s not only straight people who are targeting bisexuals. In reality, even some members of the queer community can feel some type of way when bisexuals have a relationship with the opposite gender; some going as far as to feel annoyed by the “straight passing privilege” of said bisexual couple. On the other hand, it’s become quite common nowadays for straight people to tell a bisexual person that they’re not really bisexual, and that they have to choose because they’re just identifying as bisexual for attention. And that’s just not okay.

Listen, while I was reading this book, I wanted to hug Darcy and never let her go. She was always trying her best, and there was nothing more I wanted to do than tell her that she is valid and queer. Something that people tend to forget when they’re reading Young Adult (YA) novels is that you’re reading about teenagers finding their way in life. These characters are not meant to be perfect; instead, they’re meant to make mistakes and learn from them. We’ve all made a bad decision (or a hundred) when we were in high schoolーit’s inevitable. That’s precisely the beauty of growing up: learning from your mistakes and being a better person. And that’s exactly what Darcy did and why she became such an important character for me. When I read books, I tend to unconsciously try to find myself in a character, since it feels nice to be represented somehow. Even so, as I read this book, I saw myself in Darcy in ways that I never thought I would. It was almost like the book was challenging me to question myself by seeing different perspectives of myself. 

Darcy is a badass character. There’s no other way to put it. Imagine having to deal with classmates that are way richer than you and are condescending towards you while also trying to hide the fact that you’re helping all of them in their love lives because you’re behind locker 89? Nerve-racking. She was receiving ten letters per week and answering them with a 95% success rate. At the same time, she was in love with her best friend and trying her best to hide the obvious hurt she felt when watching Brooke fall in love with someone else. Yup, Darcy is cool and I will defend her at all costs.   

“Brougham made me see the best version of myself, the kinder, wiser, more empathetic version I’d always wanted to be.” – Darcy Philips

Alexander Brougham as the hot Australian love interest? Count me in! His cold personality grew on Darcy as much as it did on me. When you read in between the lines and all the misunderstandings, you realize that he’s just a seventeen-year-old that wants to give himself to someone and feel safe. Oh, we love a man who’s not scared to be vulnerable and ask for his needs (it’s pretty self-explanatory that he’s written by a woman). Alexander is the perfect example of “bi wife energy.” He became part of Darcy’s support system when she needed it the most. What I like about them is that it didn’t feel like he was the prince in shining armor trying to save the damsel in distress; but rather, it felt like he was just a friend trying to be there for her, like a boyfriend being supportive and not leaving his girlfriend alone. And that’s how you do it! Kudos to the author. 

“Alexander Brougham, with his vulnerability, and his perceptiveness, and his ability to make everything I say feel weighted and important.” – Darcy Philips

Darcy and Alexander had this weird and satisfying chemistry that I loved and couldn’t get enough of. It’s like they understood each other without much effort, but, of course, they had to bicker with each other because they’re both equally stubborn. Even so, when they both wanted to be right, they usually listened to the other and admitted when they were wrong. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they were good together. I know it should be like this (it’s a romance book, after all!); they’re supposed to have chemistry and be good for each other, but you’d be surprised. Sometimes, in books and shows, the random character that appears out of nowhere and has five minutes of total screen time has more chemistry with the main character than the main love interest… When I was annotating and putting my pink flags for the romantic scenes (come on, not those scenes) I checked a lot of boxes, including “things in common,” “chemistry,” and “being vulnerable with each other.” Ok, I’m obsessed with them, what can I say?

This will sound silly, but reading first-person narrative gets a little bit hard for me sometimes. I can finish books in hours, yet when it comes to first-person narrative, the first few chapters will take me so much time because I just can’t get used to it. I know, it is silly, but I still can’t help it. I think I’m so used to third-person narrative that I tend to gravitate more toward those books. Nevertheless, it says a lot about Sophie Gonzalez‘ writing style when not even two (yes, two) pages in, I was already hooked and couldn’t put the book down. So, if you’re like me and struggle with first person narratives, don’t let that stop you from experiencing this book. I have to admit, Perfect On Paper has one of the best introductions ever. The style felt juvenile and fun. I was already laughing on the fifth page. I annotated it and this detail created a more genuine image of a struggling teenager trying to survive high school. 

“My hope is that this story reaches someone who needs it.” – Sophie Gonzales, author of Perfect On Paper

If you’re still unsure about this book and you’re like me, here’s a list of tropes you’re going to find: enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, misunderstandings, unrequited love, bisexual main character, Contemporary High School AU, and queer representation. 

And if you’re a part of the LGTBQ+ community, you should give it a read. And if you’re not, you should do it too, because we all need to learn about these issues in order to become a better society. I highly recommend this book, and I give it a rating of 5/5. I can also see myself reading it again for sure. Did I cry? Yes, I did. Did I laugh? Way more than I should have, and I’m still debating if my humor is the exact same as Darcy or if this was just utterly funny. Did I enjoy it? A lot! It was so refreshing to read this book, considering that it made me so happy. I wish I could’ve had a Locker 89 and a Darcy at my high school, because it most likely would’ve saved me from a lot of drama and embarrassment. Oh, to be young and in love, am I right?

Nahiria I. Rivera Dieppa is a student from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She's studying Creative Writing with a second concentration in Public Relations and Publicity. She loves her books more than anything, and is passionate about music.