Wallace, Kim. Erik & Isabelle: Freshman Year at Foresthill High. Sacramento, California: Foglight, 2004. 225 p. ISBN: 0975584804. Paperback. $12.00.
Wallace, Kim. Erik & Isabelle: Sophomore Year at Foresthill High. Sacramento, California: Foglight, 2005. 224 p. ISBN: 0975584812. Paperback. $12.00.
Wallace, Kim. Erik & Isabelle: Junior Year at Foresthill High. Sacramento, California: Foglight, 2006. 227 p. ISBN: 0975584820. Paperback. $12.00.
Wallace, Kim. Erik & Isabelle: Senior Year at Foresthill High. Sacramento, California: Foglight, 2007. 220 p. ISBN: 0975584835. Paperback. $12.00.
Meet Erik, the ninth grader who lives under the command of his military dad, starts the day with pushups, and shhhhhhhhâ€“he happens to be gay. Meet Isabelle, a rightbrained freshman who marches to her own drummer, has a mind of her own, and is the only out lesbian at Foresthill High. Erik and Isabelle are best friends.
Freshman Year: “Faggot,” Erik hears as he walks down the hallways of Foresthill High, but the word is echoing within his mind from the many times he has heard it before. Isabelle breaks the spell when she calls his name and their story begins in a narrative that bounces back and forth between Isabelle’s and Erik’s lives. Isabelle uncharacteristically falls in love with Mandy, a cheerleader, and discovers that sometimes preconceived notions aren’t true. Erik also meets another gay boy, Jeremy, first on the internet and then in person during a track meet.
Sophomore Year: As the school year begins, Isabelle encourages her friends to join her in finding a way to “impact our sophomore year in some fabulous way.” Erik decides to create a 10K race, and donate the money they’ll raise to charity. Erik and Isabelle search for and find love, but happy endings can seem unlikely in a society that often makes it impossible to be openly gay. Erik goes to San Francisco for Thanksgiving vacation and ends up spending time with his gay cousin, who shows him another lifestyle. Isabelle decides to impact their sophomore year by creating a public service announcement about acceptance and diversity, which starts a dialog among her peers.
Junior Year: Eleventh grade is no less trouble-free for Erik and Isabelle than previous years. They stumble in their romances and continue to endure homophobia from their classmates and peers. But both friends confront each challenge with bravery and maturity. The end of Junior year closes in triumph, with a promise of even more excitement for Senior year.
Senior Year: Erik spends the year studying abroad in Germany, and meets someone who changes his life. Isabelle and her girlfriend want to run for Prom Queens, and must fight against the religious right to do so. By the end of senior year, both Erik and Isabelle have found a path for their future.
If stories provide avenues for people to see themselves in literature, then these books do a great job as they deal with teen issues, spirituality, bullying, suicide, coming out, and more. The first two books offer a litany of situations and struggles faced by many gay youth. The third and fourth books contain stronger plots, while offering hope for gay kids. Wallace has created believable characters that mature from uncertain ninth gradersâ€”complete with all their inherent dramaâ€”into settled young adults. Occasionally the narrative becomes confusing as it switches between Isabelle’s and Erik’s lives. Although there are sexual experiences in these stories, the sex isn’t graphic. I am looking forward to see what Wallace comes out with next. Recommended for high school and YA collections.
Reviewed by Sharon Flesher-Duffy
Library Media Specialist
Nashua High South (NH)