Staring Up at the Sun, by Suzanne Bugler
Kate and Juliet, that’s how it’s always been. Kate, Juliet, and a herd of other popular girls. But lately, Kate’s been wondering whether that’s the case because they’re such good friends, or just because it’s always been the way it is. Then Sara joins the class and suddenly, everything changes.
Kate doesn’t think about herself as a lesbian. She doesn’t think of herself much at all, really; it’s all about Sara, bewitching, bewildering Sara. As they become fast friends, Kate begins to compromise herself. She starts dating Glenn, Sara’s brother, in an attempt to avoid getting on Sara’s bad side when he develops a crush on her. Before she knows it, the relationship goes further than she enjoys. But can she say no to anything, knowing her relationship with Glenn is part of the reason why she’s so easily accepted in their home?
Soon, all of Kate’s life revolves around Sara. Sara’s house, Sara’s friendship, Sara’s beliefs and violent mood-swings. Juliet and the others are cast by the wayside, and soon Kate is lumped into the same category as Sara; disliked, accused of being a slag, and written about in school-yard graffiti. Her parents are worried. But it will take one more element to really set the fox among the pigeons. Will their friendship survive?
Staring Up at the Sun starts off as a sweetly innocent tale of a girl’s discovery of her own sexuality. Entirely taken by surprise by her feelings for Sara, Kate is sent into a tailspin most people have experienced, abandoning life as she knows it when she falls head over heels in love. Soon, however, it darkens and becomes a gentle lesson about being true to oneself no matter what happens.
Suzanne Bugler makes use of her considerable talents as a chronicler of the human condition once again, turning this story into an eminently recognisable one, and evoking the drizzly atmosphere of British school life to a T. The emotional turmoil Kate experiences is beautifully drawn and therefore instantly familiar to all who have been teenagers in love.
What’s more; the fact that Kate and Sara are both girls is not at the fore or even near it. The novel automatically accepts that homosexuality is a fact of life and doesn’t draw any more attention than necessary to the fact, despite its importance to the plot as Sara is attracted to boys. Another accomplished novel on Bugler’s record, and another quick but worthwhile read for a rainy day.