For The May Queen

Title: FOR THE MAY QUEEN
Author: Kate Evans
Publisher: Vanilla Heart Publishing
ISBN: 978-0982115077
Rated: 3 stars
Cat: Literary Lesbian Fiction

Maybe Not for the Queen

Kate Evans has written a novel, For the May Queen, which serves as nostalgic romp through the early 1980’s. True, some of us may not want to go back, but Evans lets us travel back in time safely through the eyes of college freshman, Norma Rogers. Freckle-faced with kinky red hair, Norma Rogers is your typical, middle-class suburban girl who, now that she’s out of her parent’s reach, parties like its 1999 in the dismal dorms of her college in Sacramento. She moons over her older boyfriend, Jack, who only makes an appearance to have sex with her. In the first semester she beds every male character that she drinks with, becomes best friends with booze-swilling, pill popping, pot-smoking girl named Liz and she nearly flunks every class she takes. Yes, indeed, your typical college freshman.

For the May Queen is not a complex novel, but offers up a light, entertaining read that will resonate mostly with young adults. It might hit a comforting note with those who came of age in the early eighties, but this is mainly a tale about your average college girl who parties too hard, sleeps around and finds out about herself and the world around her. She finds some success and solace in her English class where she writes a paper on Luke and Laura’s wedding. Yes, THE Luke and Laura from General Hospital. Her teacher, Linda, decides to read it aloud in front of the class to laud Norma’s talent:

“Linda read aloud my essay on Luke and Laura’s wedding, pausing every few sentences to express admiration for the way I’d – as she put it – cogently, and satirically, analyzed the irony of the media’s celebration of a marriage between a rapist and a victim.

I hadn’t realized I’d done that. If I’d felt better, I would have been elated, figuring if she could find it on the page somewhere in me I had the thinking and writing abilities she praised. But instead of basking in the attention, I wanted to shrink down in my chair, to run away, to disappear, to buy a one-way ticket to Europe and wander around anonymous.”

Although this gives us a hint of what Norma is feeling, we never really get a very deep sense of Norma beyond what any college student endures their first year away from home. She develops a relationship Paul, whom she calls ‘Chuck’, which can’t seem to maintain itself at the boyfriend-girlfriend status that Norma wants it to be. Towards the end of the book, we find out why. Perhaps the reason was more surprising in 1981 and especially to someone like the sheltered Norma, but not surprising to the present day reader.

Norma’s naïveté is what makes this seem like a young adult novel. There is not enough depth or uniqueness in Norma to make her intriguing as a character. This is typified when she experiences a drunken encounter with Chuck:

“I looked at him. He put his arm around me. I put my arms around him. We kissed. He was no Billy. His kisses were perfect, as though our mouths were molded by the same sculptor and belonged together. My body flooded with wet warmth, a feeling not unusual but always welcome - especially since Chuck was, for the first time, the instigator. I wondered how much he had drunk, or if he was stoned. We were kissing, quietly. He wasn’t making jokes, or cracks about the “skunk” not working like the first time I asked him if he’d sleep with me. He didn’t seem wasted like the night of the Strip Quarters game. He was kissing me, touching me, pulling his shirt off over his head them helping me with mine.”

The style is easy and engaging, but Norma lacks anything of substance to make her compelling enough for the reader to truly care about her. I wanted to see Norma engage in some modicum of introspection, but she drifts along in sex-fueled, drug-addled haze that becomes boring and is saved only by the fact that Norma appears to be a nice person.

There are some gay and lesbian nuances towards the end of the novel, but it is only skimmed upon and not extremely significant. A straight girl who is first learning about gay people would seem to warrant a stronger and deeper reaction than the one Norma has. Even more stupefying, is when we see Norma twenty years later, unmarried, she doesn’t seem to have lost her naïveté nor does she seem to have gained any more self-awareness. I found this frustrating and unsatisfying. Overall, this is a well-written weekend read for young adults who are about to enter college or middle-aged people who miss dorm parties and the cultural references of the “me” decade.

REVIEWED BY M.E. CARTER