Teen Voices: The Second Mango, by Shira Glassman
Gwen is a sophomore attending Biotechnology High School in Freehold, New Jersey. She loves to read, paint, and research quantum mechanics in her free time.
The summary explains that Queen Shulamit goes on the search for a queer woman after her own sweetheart left, accompanied by a cross-dressing knight, before they run into trouble. It also touches briefly on Shulamit’s digestive issues. At first glance, it seemed to be a traditional adventure novella-but with a lesbian queen instead of a straight prince. However, it is so much more than that.
Being a lesbian myself, I can relate to the feeling that there is nobody out there who even shares the same sort of attraction as myself. Roughly 4% of a given population is queer, meaning that the extremely vast majority of individuals that you run into are not. This sometimes causes me to worry that I’ll never be able to find anyone that I actually like that even shares the appropriate sexuality with me. The Second Mango nails that feeling perfectly, creating an extremely relatable scenario for the premise of the story.
Shulamit’s digestive issues, while only briefly touched upon in the summary, play a crucial role in the story. She struggles with what appear to be food allergies in a medieval society where they have already ruled out poisons and curses. Consequently, everybody believes that she’s faking. This is probably the second most relatable part of the book. If you have or know somebody with severe food allergies, then you know what a nightmare it is trying to avoid cross-contamination, which plagues Shulamit greatly. These little touches of realism make it easy to connect to a queen who’s riding a part-time horse, part-time dragon to get around.
Finally, the characters are so easy to connect to, it almost feels like you’re right there with them. Their emotions are yours, the plot twists are shocking, and discovering their backgrounds will actually make your heart break. Even the aforementioned part horse, part dragon has a story, and it doesn’t feel rushed or forced at all.
This book made me laugh out loud, cry, and squeal to varying degrees. I would recommend it to anyone for its depth, relatability, and sheer diversity.