“When Nina comes back from the first ever Summer that she’s been separate from her two best friends in the world, Avery and Mel, she has huge news. She met an amazing guy during her leadership program in California and she’s literally counting the hours until she gets to see him again. But Mel and Avery are acting strange–they don’t react to her homecoming as she expects. Suddenly she’s an outsider, and she has no idea why.
Turns out something huge happened while Nina was away. Mel had her first kiss.
I plead guilty. Yes, I have been looking for LGBT novels to help me with writing scripts for My Husband’s Lover. I’ve been talking to LGBT people too, of all sexes. The fun thing about doing this? I get to meet a lot of new people, I learn about so many new things–and I get to discover books like this.
Granted, On the Count of Three isn’t really an LGBT novel. It focuses more on friendship and coming of age–it just so happens that it has a lesbian character. And I’m actually very happy about this. Because it doesn’t make an issue about being gay. Well–
Sure, the book tackles homosexuality. But it does it in such a way that’s not at all preachy, or all-knowing, or whatever. It doesn’t look down on it, nor does it put it up on a pedestal. Author Maureen Johnson treats it like an everyday thing. Like it’s normal.
Because it is normal.
Once we get past the characters’ initial shock at having a lesbian among their midst, it’s business as usual: angst, love, and the entire spectrum of teenage drama come parading down.
Do I think it’s a good book? Yes. More than the fact that it treats the lesbian character as a normal character, I believe that the book has a nice statement: that friends can come and go, but in the end, it’s up to you to keep hold of them. That friendship isn’t something you can take for granted, that you have to work for it. And that friendship can be destroyed–but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
On the Count of Three also goes by the title The Bermudez Triangle, by the way. I prefer the first title because the book isn’t just about Nina Bermudez, our anchor. Conflicting, I know. How can the book not be about Nina when she’s also our anchor? Well, while the novel is her story mainly, it’s also the story of Mel and Avery, her friends. We can even say that it’s the story of Parker–a guy they meet and befriend. And while they’re a part of the triangle, they’re not Bermudezes. And On the Count of Three actually has a meaning attached to it, which may not be apparent to everyone.
Going back to the story, I do have one minor complaint about the book: the Nina chapters at the beginning. They’re kind of boring. I get that we’re trying to establish the normalcy in Nina’s life, but this causes a problem for me since I believe that Nina isn’t more of a main character than Mel and Avery. The three of them, in my opinion, are given the same weight in propelling the story. Take any one of them out, and the whole thing might collapse.
So when we begin with Nina being all lovey-dovey with Steve, a relationship we won’t see much in the succeeding chapters, I can’t help but feel as if my time was wasted on reading about Steve. Steve who from then on mainly serves as Nina’s sounding board.
And, well, the chapters with Nina and Steve falling in love were really boring. And Nina is grating whenever Steve is involved.
Aside from this though, the novel is A+ in my book. It tackles the issue of friendship in a manner few books do: realistically. It helped, I guess, that all three friends are main characters. The other two aren’t just hanger ons. They’re their own characters too. They’re as three-dimensional as our anchor.
Which is why the friendship story works for me.
Also, I really like how Maureen Johnson has structured the story in such a way that you would be okay with any kind of ending. The ending we get, the happily ever after, works because we see the roots of the friendship. And we see how different it is in the end, to what it was when we begin reading the book.
But had the author chosen to go a different route, to a not-as-happy ending, I think it would work though. That’s the power of having characters that are very complete. Of characters who all have journeys, and who all grew as people. You will be ready to accept whatever their fate is. Because they’re not the same people they were before. Because they may have changed, maybe not all for the better, but definitely for good.
Yes, I just quoted a musical line. Well, paraphrased. And I’m not sorry because it fits.
On the Count of Three is a great story about friendship and growing up. And it’s one I very much recommend to anyone looking for a good realistic story of what happens when we grow up, when we find ourselves diverging from the path we made with our friends.