Frenemy of the People is my favorite work by Nora Olsen. The voices of her characters—their hopes, wants, and fears—truly shine through their sometimes bumbling emotions. The book is well-written and bears the mindset of adolescents—which it should, as it is written in first person narratives of women in their teens.
There were many jokes interspersed throughout the book that I found witty and humorous. They were honest mistakes that I found likely to happen to real people. My very favorite was Clarissa thinking that Lexis’s “sXe” tattoo was a misspelling of “sex”. If you know nothing about the culture surrounding that trademark that’s understandable!
Clarissa and Lexie’s actual relationship reads intuitively. It doesn’t seem forced, and their changes of heart occurred at a pace that is natural. I personally enjoyed Clarissa’s coming out because mine went similarly—One day I found out what it meant to be trans and the word just came into focus, as though something in my brain clicked and I recognized that a transition was possible.
I also identified with Lexie because I grew up with parents who had money when I just wanted to disappear. I often told people that the money wasn’t mine and usually dressed in cheaper, off-brand clothes. I, however, was not allowed to shop at the Salvation Army… I tried to go vegetarian many times and was very British-Classic punk my last two years of high school. Reading her character and the way she thought, and how she came up with bizarre ideas warmed my heart. It elevated this book from just another non-heteronormative love story to something more—something I connected with almost viscerally.
I’d like to speak to the fact that some people have found Lexie’s antics to be too over-the-top, but when you’re young anything is possible. The last, largest idea that she comes up with isn’t hard to swallow if you just remember your own ingenuity from way back.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in LGBT lit, but especially to younger people. It is just one story of the many that line the shelves, but it’s very lifelike and could almost be your own. Lexie and Clarissa are characters I will hold with me forever.