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From Phyllida's Desk

Original Romantic Adventure Story

The Girl With 2 HeartsThe Girl With 2 Hearts by T.T. Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, I didn't expect to love this novel, just to like it. But T. T. Thomas is that kind of versatile writer: capable of producing subtle New Yorker-worthy short stories as in her series Sex on a Regular Basis; sophisticated comedies like Two Weeks at Gay Banana Hot Springs; beautifully-written historical romances like her last novel, A Delicate Refusal--and now this, a jaunty Young Adult adventure.

It's hard to review Two Hearts because it's such an improbable mix of YA, lesbian romance, adventure, historical, military, speculative and steampunk that--What? Steampunk? Well, I'm not sure, but yes, I think so. There's an airship/zeppelin thingy at some point, and our intrepid heroine, she of the two hearts, using some kind of prism device…just read it! You'll laugh, you'll cry, and no matter how much you think you know about the Boer War (actually, it's the Second Boer War--see what I mean?) you'll learn a lot of history in about as painless a way possible.

For all of you Queen Victoria fangirls out there, there are a couple of hilarious scenes involving Her Majesty, our intrepid heroine again, a clandestine cigarette and some very funny dialogue indeed. And if you're not already a Queen Victoria fangirl, if you have this outdated and mistaken notion that she was a dumpy, prudish little old lady whose eponymous era mirrored her personality, this novel will change your mind.

But trying to actually describe Two Hearts is pretty much a hopeless cause. What makes it work is its utter originality. There just isn't anything out there like it. Of course, I'm no expert on YA or lesbian fiction, but it's unlike anything I've ever read. And these days, that's a real coup. There's so much good writing going on, from so many new and newly-discovered good writers, that it's hard to stand out at all, much less be original.

Even if Two Hearts isn't unique (although I'd be very surprised to find anything remotely similar), it's damn close. Plus it's fun and charming and it made me cry at one point. Me, Ann Herendeen, who hasn't cried over fiction since the age of fifteen, with Wuthering Heights. (Rest assured, Two Hearts is nothing like that Gothick hot mess.)

Really, all I can say is, don't worry about categories and labels. Whatever your age, this story makes late-Victorian-era war fun, until it reminds us (again) just how horrible war really is. But it's an entertaining and imaginative journey from intriguing beginning to (mostly) happy ending. Don't miss it!

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