The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake


While I was pulling “The Might Heart of Sunny St. James” out from the rest of the April book order (to read first before putting it on our new arrivals table) I knew the author’s name sounded familiar.  Once I recognized that this was the author of the YA “Girl Made of Stars”, I was pretty stoked to see how her writing translated to juvenile fiction. I hadn’t realized I’d already read her juvenile fiction work.  
Anyway this is definitely one of those novels that I wasn’t sure if I was going to review as I was reading it.  The story moved along, created a lovely main character, and discussed the much needed voice of LGBTQ in juvenile fiction.  Sunny St. James is struggling with her health as well as her sexual identity, mix in some friend and family drama and we all know that’s the perfect storm of juvenile fiction!  But what really got me was the end. This is why I really do try to read as many books to the end as I can. There have been too many books that were either a drag to read or just simply classified as “a pretty good book” until I got to the end.  And then the author BLEW MY MIND in the final chapters. I think this novel would fall under that category, it was pleasant enough but the end is where it got me and I knew I wanted to share it in reviews.
When I was in middle school and my friends and I were moving through the chaos of puberty and coming into our sexuality; being called gay was sort of like the Salem Witch Trials. Ashley Herring Blake remains the pillar of coming of age sexuality by creating characters that are discovering who they are and owning it bravely; despite confusion, questions, and uncertainty.  Sunny St. James doesn’t come to the conclusion of her identity easily or without doubt and fear BUT it makes her journey worthy of respect and love. I think that’s what I adore most about Ashley’s characters; they go deep. They provide grounding for children coming into their own sexual identity. Because Ashley writes strength into her characters discoveries; these are truly earned badges of personal growth.  It is a thrill to see her characters come out the other side stronger and certain of their own resilience.
As I was settling in to write my “For Those That Liked” section I immediately thought of similarities to Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, in fact the cover art even reminded me of Ivy….. turns out Ashley Herring Blake ALSO wrote Ivy Aberdeen… Suffice it to say I believe Ashley Herring Blake is one the most relevant authors we have right now for LGBTQ voices in juvenile fiction; writing important and timely voices in a wonderfully insightful and thoughtful way!
For Those That Liked: Better Nate Than Never, Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, George
For Ages: 9 years old and up