Lynn Gardner: Odd Girl Out


6.28.2013

Odd Girl Out


In a 1950s college town somewhere in Midwestern America, two sorority girls fall in love. Of course, their love must remain secret and that secrecy works Laura into knots. Younger than Beth, Laura is less assured and willingly plays the child in their relationship ... which made me a little crazy, by the way, but this is a pulp novel from the 50s and the whole dominant/butch/submissive/femme fandango was probably expected. (That said, the novel is surprisingly chaste).

Of course, Odd Girl Out can't just be two girls in love. No, A Man Must Come Between Them. While Charlie squires Laura around a few times out of duty to both their fathers, it's clear he's quite taken with Beth. And Beth seems to encourage him. Which absolutely freaks Laura out and causes her to react pettishly and with great melodrama. The rest of the novel explores the melodramatic (that word cannot be used to often in discussing this novel) messiness of the Laura-Beth-Charlie triangle.

More interesting to me than the triangle -- it seemed safe to presume it was just a matter of time before Charlie "won" -- was the Fall of Emily. Emily is Beth and Laura's seemingly boy-crazy roommate. She has her heart set on being Bud's girl and doesn't hide her desire or later goings-on very well. This gets her in trouble with her sorority (motto: "appear chaste at all times") and then further (entirely inadvertent) shenanigans caused her to be expelled and completely Ruined. Bud makes out fine, of course, because It's A (Straight) Man's World.

Yeah, who'd think a pulp novel would make me want to punch so many people? At least Laura comes into her own at the end. Beth makes her choice, too, but I'd like to see whether she's still happy with that choice ten years on.

If you're going to read Odd Girl Out, I strongly recommend getting your hands on the Cleis Press edition as it comes with an introduction by the author and the cover art is much more attractive. Also, the Naiad editions contains several annoying typographical errors which I hope have been fixed in the Cleis edition.

Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon (Naiad Press, 1986)

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