I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed and swooned, simultaneously, as much as I did while reading Margo Zimmerman Gets the Girl, a queer high school romance that features two neurodiverse characters from wildly different worlds.
Margo Zimmerman is one of the most popular girls in school, super femme, super driven, super straight… until she kisses another girl during a game of spin the bottle and realizes she’s a lesbian. Rather than dumping her boyfriend and coming out and pursuing one of the many queer girls in her hometown of Ocala, Florida, Margo decides to quell her (hilariously manifesting) gay panic the way her autistic brain has always succeeded before: by studying. Abbie Sokoloff is a tomboy skateboarder who’s been out as bisexual before she ever even moved to this town, which, by the way, she can’t wait to get out of when college starts. The only problem is her admission to university is on the line because she’s tanking AP History. She also needs a tutor. Margo and Abbie kind of know each other from swim team, so they reluctantly agree to be each other’s guides. Abbie will teach Margo how to be queer; Margo will teach Abbie about the Constitutional Convention. It’ll be fine. They don’t really like each other but it’ll be fine. They’re not each other’s types, anyway, even if they did like each other. IT’LL BE FINE.
Sara Waxelbaum and Brianna R. Shrum — both autistic — have created something so refreshing with this book. Margo and Abbie are alive; they feel as real as all my own high school memories. The writing is super voicey, and it only takes a few sentences to morph right into the characters’ world. There are so many hilarious queer references, so much celebrating and gently lampooning queer culture and stereotypes (Abbie teaching Margo to “sit wrong” and “lean” had me in stitches), so many important conversations about stuff like bisexual erasure and femme invisibility, and even nods to the absolutely vile oppression facing LGBTQ+ kids leveraged by Ron Desantis in Florida right now. But this is one of those magical books where the queer kids have struggles, even gay panic, but homophobia isn’t one of those struggles. Not internal or external. Margo won’t come out yet for the same reason she won’t ride a horse (her most favorite animal) yet: she wants to know every single thing about it first.
The cherry on top of the humor and the engaging story is Margo and Abbie’s chemistry. There’s a really fantastic sex scene, which you almost never get in YA queer romance, and it was so cool to see these teens having conversations around consent and never even approaching anything like shame with their horniness. I honestly felt like my heart was racing as hard as theirs sometimes and I’ve been out of high school and married to my wife for about a billion years. But, even more than the queer romance of it all, what I wish my teenage self could have experienced is the fully realized stories of two neurodiverse teens who find love, exactly as they are.