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“Bi. Bisexual. Lili, I’m bi. It feels bigger than I want it to be. Do I really have to announce this? Can’t I just feel something and live inside it while it’s happening and not analyze it to death?” Imogen – Imogen, Obviously
by Becky Albertalli
Imogen is straight. She’s the world’s biggest queer ally and is surrounded by queer friends but is a self-described “raging hetero” herself. Her best friend, Gretchen, who has an amazing gaydar, confirms this every day with affectionate nicknames.
However, Imogen’s world shifts when she visits her childhood best friend, Lili, on Lili’s college campus. Imogen is warmly greeted by Lili and her amazing group of queer friends, and she quickly forgets her anxieties about not fitting in. However, Lili tells Imogen a secret: at the beginning of the school year, she told her friends that she and Imogen briefly dated, to avoid revealing that she’s never been in a relationship before. She apologizes to Imogen and offers to tell her friends she lied, but Imogen tells her not to worry. It’s not a big deal to her if LIli’s friends think Imogen is bi.
But Imogen can’t stop thinking about Tessa, one of Lili’s friends. And Tessa is constantly flirting with Imogen. Maybe. Imogen isn’t sure. After all, Tessa is flirty with everyone. But she does know that she should probably stop talking to Tessa like this because it’s not fair to lead her on. After all, Imogen is straight. Or. . . is she?
From the author of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes another brilliant journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Imogen, Obviously features a cast of funny, witty, and loveable characters that show that there’s no one way to be queer. Some teens will relate to Imogen’s long journey of discovering her sexuality amidst the rationalizing and denial that comes with the journey. Others will see themselves in her younger sister, Edith, who always knew she was different and proclaimed that she liked girls when she was seven. Still, others will recognize the darker side of this book, which tackles the uglier side of being queer. Biphobia is discussed, specifically, the pressure that many bisexual people face to “pick a side” as well as the downside of having labels be a prerequisite for being “queer enough” to truly belong in queer spaces. These complex issues are handled in a nuanced way, allowing room for discussion and growth.
While these issues are given the gravity they deserve, the book overall is still lighthearted. This atmosphere is kept alive by the characters – Lili’s college friend group and their antics are quintessential. Their warmth and immediate acceptance of Imogen as one of their own will make readers feel as if they themselves can also belong in that group. Imogen, Obviously is a romcom perfect for teens that are looking for a story that is cute and heartwarming, but also thought-provoking and relatable. Readers who want more books that cast LGBTQ+ characters in a positive light should add the following books to their reading list: All the Invisible Things by Orlagh Collins, Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, and All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson.
- Imogen and Tessa visit a sculpture of the world’s largest scissors and take a few pictures. Imogen posts a picture to Instagram with a scissor emoji for the caption. Gretchen texts her jokingly asking, “Who are you scissoring?” Scissoring is a term used to describe lesbian sex.
- Lili’s friends Kayla and Declan have an inside joke where they pass a sausage in a plastic bag back and forth between them. Many sexual innuendos are made with this joke, such as when Imogen texts Gretchen, “I don’t even want to tell you what I’m about to do with a German sausage” with no context and Gretchen responds, “IMOGEN. What are you about to do with a tiny German sausage???”
- Imogen and Tessa make out in Tessa’s room while Tessa is partially undressed. Imogen describes, “My words melt away when I see her. Tessa in an undershirt, white with short sleeves, the straps of her sports bra faintly visible underneath. Nothing on bottom but boy shorts.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Imogen goes to a party with Lili and her friends. Imogen has an alcoholic drink for the first time.
- Profanity such as “fuck” and “shit” are used as exclamations, but rarely.