Some Girls Bind (2019) by Rory James
In their last year of high school, Jamie is keenly aware that they have a secret. But Jamie doesn’t think their secret is the same kind as the secrets other high school kids have.
It doesn’t seem to matter to them that their best friend Levi is gay. Or that Nora’s dad drinks too much. Or that Eric wants to drop out of swimming. Those are all secrets that their social group share and know about.
All of them tell their secrets to each other, except for Jamie.
Some Girls Bind is a new YA verse novel from Rory James, which is a largely introspective novel about finding oneself and coming out as a teenager in high school. It is family-centric – both biological and chosen.
Online, we are seeing an emergence of understanding in diverse gender identity that has never been so pronounced. But in this book, this emergence enfolds purely offline, face-to-face with Jamie’s friends. None of Jamie’s friendships exist online. They go to school every day with all the people they’re friends with. This seems like a deliberate choice to highlight the notable difference in coming out to people you share your life with every day than to the perhaps more friendly anonymous crowd of internet denizens.
Jamie has at least two LGBTQIA+ friends and yet they feel like they can’t talk to them about the fact that they’re not sure they’re a girl. Even the title of the book, Some Girls Bind, continues this obfuscation of Jamie’s secret, sending the message that something about being non-binary might still be taboo.
I have to admit that, when I first picked up this book, I was a little concerned about what the representation of these topics might be like. I hadn’t heard of this author before and there proved to be very little to find about the author, Rory James, and I hadn’t heard much from trans and non-binary reviewers. Despite my initial trepidations, this young adult book was a refreshing and wonderful experience.
The focus of the novel is on the coming out narrative, for better or worse. But what we get in the telling is a novel that offers hope, while at the same time still recognising current realities. The main narrative of Some Girls Bind tells a story of the way the world could—or even should—be at the end of the day. One where the ones closest to you will accept you, even if you have to do some emotional labour in confronting their out-dated narratives. That people you look up to will prove to be the people you deserve them to be. That the friends you’ve chosen in your neighbourhood and your school will prove to be the people who have got your back.
Despite Jamie’s fears, they are met with nothing but support when they do come out. We see that in the beautiful response that they get from their brother Steve, who they look up to and idolise throughout the novel. We see the way they stand up and confront their parents when they say thoughtless things, and their regret and apologies for those instinctual words. And there is only love and support from the friendship group from whom Jamie feels as though they have been keeping a secret from.
By contrast, we also see the effects of Levi and his boyfriend coming out to their own parents, with various results. Although Jamie themself doesn’t suffer from ostracisation due to their coming out, the reality of it is real and acknowledged within the narrative.
Some Girls Bind is a fantastic exploration of acceptance of identity, the truths we tell—both to ourselves and others—and the communities we build.
About the reviewer
Nicole Field (he/she/they) writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. They live in Melbourne with one of their partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea. They can be found on WordPress: nicolefieldwrites.wordpress.com and Twitter: @faerywhimsy.