Empress of the World
by Ryan, Sara

While attending a summer institute, fifteen-year-old Nic meets another girl named Battle, falls in love with her, and finds the relationship to be difficult and confusing.

Gr. 9-12. Fifteen-year-old Nicola is spending the summer at an institute for gifted youth, where she's studying archaeology. To her surprise, she falls in love with another girl, Battle, a lovely dancer with long hair, and Battle with her. Nic's intense feelings for Battle cause a break-up that sends Battle off with a guy, but unlike many stories of young love, this has a happy ending. Interestingly, Ryan writes this just like most teen romances; as far as the events go, Battle could easily have been a boy. A few muttered "dykes" is the extent of reaction from the other students, and though Nic, who has liked boys in the past, wonders about her sexuality, this seems to be a side issue; the main one is how Battle feels about her. There are subplots about parents and archaeology, but as in real life, the girls are submerged in the relationship. The dialogue may be a bit like Dawson's Creek's at times, but first-novelist Ryan has a good handle on her characters and on her story, which is romantic without being explicit and feels very much like today. ((Reviewed July 2001))Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

In a love story that breaks the usual rules ("There's two girls and a boy, but they're not in the roles you'd think they'd have"), Ryan has written an almost too-perfect awakening story. Nic is studying archaeology at a summer camp for academically gifted students. For the first time in her life, she discovers a group of friends surprisingly similar to herself-periphery kids who aren't loners but who don't quite fit in. In addition to Katrina and Isaac, Nic meets Battle, "Beautiful Hair Girl." The four quickly form a tight-knit group, but it's Battle who steals Nic's thoughts. As the lines of friendship blur, Nic and Battle struggle with a relationship that is almost as difficult for them to understand as it is for society. Even in an environment that respects her intellectually, Nic once again finds herself on the outside. Ryan uses a language that not only understands teenagers, but also illustrates respect for them. She also accurately represents a variety of reactions to Nic, from outright hostility and moderate wariness to neutrality and complete support. Seeing eye-to-eye with her characters, Ryan neither patronizes them nor builds them up. Both controversial and long-awaited, this helps to fill a need that is painfully obvious in YA literature and introduces a wonderful new voice. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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