For about a year, I’ve been trying to work my way through all of Maureen Johnson’s novels. So when I found The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson at the library last week, I knew it would be a perfect book for my first 2014 LGBT Reading Challenge review. The story switches points of views between three female best friends as they approach the summer before their senior year. Nina Bermudez has always been the leader of their threesome, and pretty much everything else (straight A student, class president, etc.). To hone her leadership skills she leaves her two best friends, Mel and Avery, for the first time to go to a pre-college program for ten weeks. During the program she makes a whole new life for herself, with an “eco-warrior” boyfriend and a roommate who steals her underwear. She expects Mel and Avery to be the same when she returns, but they make a new life for themselves as well. A life where they are more than just friends. When Nina finds out her two best friends are in love, she knows their trio will never be the same, but she’s unsure if their friendship will survive senior year. I really appreciated that this story was told through the perspectives of three female characters with distinct voices. Nina, Mel, and Avery are all very different, but it is easy to understand why they are friends. As I wrote above, Nina is the leader (hence the name of the book and their friend group). Mel is the quiet and shy girl they both stick up for, and Avery is the wild child who shakes things up.
What’s interesting is how the summer changes the power dynamics within their friendship. Nina is worried about being left out, but I think she is also reacting to her loss of status within the group. Mel, while continuing to be quiet, turns the tables by showing incredible bravery in wanting to come out as a lesbian to her peers at school and her family. Avery shows a serious and scared side, focusing on her music and in her wanting to keep the relationship a secret.
The reactions of each character, to the relationship and to the changes that come along with senior year, all felt really believable to me. They weren’t always perfect or politically correct, but they felt nuanced and full of emotional undertones. I’ve seen some concerns on goodreads about the book being biased against bisexuals. I thought some of the characters might have been biased or believed in stereotypes (which I can understand being trigger for some readers), but I didn’t find the book as a whole biphobic.
This book isn’t perfectly plotted and the ending doesn’t wrap things up all neat and tidy. None of them necessarily ends up with or where they are “supposed to be”, but that felt really real to me as well. I liked the idea that a book can end happily, without having a cookie cutter happy ending. All in all I really enjoyed this book and thought it presented a story that is unique within YA fiction.