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M or F?

Review

M or F?

On the Internet, you can be anyone you want to be --- and so can everyone else. You never know if the person tapping hilarious answers to your questions is the girl of your dreams --- or her gay best friend.

In M OR F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts, Frannie has a crush. And for once it's on someone suitable: Jeffrey Osborne. Hot, friendly and socially responsible, he seems to be the man of her dreams. The only problem is that Frannie freezes up around him. She'll relax when she gets to know him better, right?

In the meantime, there's the Internet. Frannie and Jeffrey chat almost every night, and the online conversation is intelligent, smooth and sizzling with chemistry. The fact that the person actually writing the words isn't Frannie at all, but her gay best friend Marcus --- well, that's just a minor detail, right? After all, Frannie is right in the room with Marcus when he's writing. Well, at least at first. When Marcus continues chatting to Jeffrey under Frannie's screen name, without telling anyone what he's doing, things get complicated. Who's falling in love with who?

M OR F? is a fun, breezy, updated version of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story. Told in alternating perspectives by Frannie and Marcus, the quick pace will keep the reader turning pages. Many scenes are laugh-out-loud hilarious. And just when you think you've figured out exactly what is going on, the story twists and turns and you have to scramble to keep up.

Although both main characters are engaging, I found Marcus particularly well-drawn. This is not a coming-out story; Marcus is secure in his sexuality and neither angst-ridden nor persecuted for it. In fact, most of the important characters in the book are very supportive. But their high school isn't Utopia; there's a well-meaning but clueless faculty advisor for the Gay Students Association, for example, and a few homophobic classmates lurking in the halls. It's a realistic scenario that adds believability to the madcap antics that seem to follow both characters.

Despite some slapstick, M OR F? relies heavily on witty conversation, both for its humor and to develop its characters --- and fortunately for the reader, the conversation works on many levels. Parts of the novel read like a segment from an episode of "Will and Grace," minus the sexual references. (The focus of M or F? is always on friendship and light romance, and neither discussion nor action ever progresses beyond kissing.)

Papademetriou and Tebbetts are careful to show the small details that make Frannie and Marcus's friendship meaningful. Ultimately, M OR F? is more about their relationship with each other and the test of that relationship. This is both the core of the book and its strength, and is one reason why readers might be happy to read it again and again.

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Reviewed by Paula Jolin on October 18, 2011

M or F?
by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • ISBN-10: 1595140344
  • ISBN-13: 9781595140340