Forward March by Skye Quinlan
Harper McKinley is a band geek and damned proud of it. She’s one of the best (and most dedicated) members of her private boarding school’s band, and with her senior year in full swing, nothing is going to stop her from having a great time. Except her conservation Republican dad is putting his hat in the ring to run for President. And her mom is the principal of her school. And her best friend is being a little weird. And there’s this Tinder profile of her someone used to catfish another band member. And…Harper might have feelings for her.
How do you come out to your homophobic mother when you don’t even know what “out” really means for you, just that you like Margot Blanchard?
This was such a heartwarming and heartbreaking (I feel like I say that in most of my reviews) reads.
NGL, I was hesitant to pick this one up after I realized it was not by Kelly Quindlen (somehow, I got the two authors confused—I blame the covers, kinda similar plots and the Qs), and also when I realized that it had a Republican president dad plotline from an author I did not know.
Normal parents chaperone school events, hug their kids because they love them, not for personal gain, and because they support their daughters and want to be there and tell them how pretty they look at homecoming. And then a camera snaps and flashes, and I’m reminded that we aren’t normal, that Dad has never chaperoned a school event, or even hugged me in public for anything except a publicity stunt.
ANYWHO, I am pleased to report that this was a really, really strong debut!
Harper is a fantastic main character. Messy. Naive. Filled with anxiety about the world and her parents and her place in it, where she is a child who doesn’t have the views of her parents and yet is a pawn in their political games. And starting to really question her own sexuality after spending her entire life not really paying much attention to it. A lot of shit happens to her, and while Harper doesn’t handle everything perfectly, she handles it realistically, and that it what I really loved, even though the pain of her panic attacks had me sobbing in sympathy.
While there is a romance here, to me, it took second place to everything else going on.
Harper has a weird falling out with her friends, particularly her best friend and roommate, after starting to spend time with the girl her fake profile matched with (the Tinder aspect gets sidelined in favor of the political aspect)—and then there is her father’s political career as the Senator turned Presidential Candidate, and while this was a lot of stuff going on and at times it felt super heaped on for drama’s sake, it worked? Because heaping on to everything else and explaining a lot of Harper’s reactions was her determination to be the Perfect Daughter (while also remaining in the spotlight because of her anxiety) after her parents kicked her brother out of their lives and shipped him off to military school. I mean, what a fucking sword hanging over your head, to think that any misstep will have your parents sending you away in shame and never speaking to you—to military school, no less. It’s a lot.
I also really liked the support network she grew. The adult teachers who cared about her and wanted her to succeed in what she wanted, not what her parents wanted. The friends Harper made who were truly supportive, as she learned what positive support and friendship looked like.
Ace rep! Lesbian rep! Bi rep! Nonbinary rep! POC rep! Gay men! Questioning rep! Fuck the Republicans/homophobes/shitty parents rep! Two fishies!
…yes, actual fishies that’s not code for anything the book has literally two goldfish.
It’s not a book for everyone, but it resonated with me as someone who has had strained relationships with her parents, and also a falling out with friends for ~reasons~ that involved lying.
Trigger Warnings: public outing, panic attack/anxiety, homophobic parents, homophobia, catfishing of a minor, depression, self-harm (off-page), addiction (off page), estranged parents/sibling
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.