Review: Forward March by Skye Quinlan

Forward March by Skye Quinlan

Forward March
Skye Quinlan
Page Street Press
Published February 1, 2022

Amazon | BookshopGoodreads

About Forward March

What’s worse? Someone using your face for catfishing or realizing you actually do have a crush on the catfished girl?

Harper “Band Geek” McKinley just wants to make it through her senior year of marching band—and her Republican father’s presidential campaign. That was a tall order to start, but everything was going well enough until someone made a fake gay dating profile posing as Harper. The real Harper can’t afford for anyone to find out about the Tinder profile for three very important reasons:

1. Her mom is the school dean and dating profiles for students are strictly forbidden.
2. Harper doesn’t even know if she likes anyone like that—let alone if she likes other girls.
3. If this secret gets out, her father could lose the election, one she’s not sure she even wants him to win.

But upon meeting Margot Blanchard, the drumline leader who swiped right, Harper thinks it might be worth the trouble to let Margot get to know the real her.

With her dad’s campaign on the line, Harper’s relationship with her family at stake, and no idea who made that fake dating profile, Harper has to decide what’s more important to her: living her truth or becoming the First Daughter of America.

Forward March on Goodreads

My Review

I liked a lot of things about this story. It’s the second marching band story that I’ve read recently, and I really enjoyed dipping into that world again. I also thought that, for a story about a girl whose father is running for president, the politics stayed sidelined, except for where they impacted Harper personally. It kept the story about her instead of being about politics, which I think is great.

I liked Harper as a character, too. She’s timid, especially at first, but she grows a lot through the story, learns a lot about taking ownership of what she wants and deciding what she will do about it.

The story also explores a lot of different kinds of toxic relationships, some more obliquely, and others much more up close. Apologies if this next part is confusing– I’m trying to avoid spoilers.

So. Toxic relationships. This is where my feelings about the book are really split. On the one hand, I thought the way the story explored Harper’s relationships with her parents (and her brother’s history with them) was great. Parent relationships are complicated, and Harper’s relationships with hers are no exception. She has to learn when to challenge them, when to find outside support, and when to do what they say until she graduates. Those aren’t always easy decisions, and I felt her conflict, anxiety, and hurt so much through the book in those scenes with her parents.

I kind of had a problem with some of the peer relationships in the book, though. Harper, especially at the beginning of the story, is a really passive character who does a lot of dangerous things to self-sabotage. She doesn’t carry her Epipen or her inhaler, instead depending on others to anticipate her need for them and provide them for her. And she is surrounded by people who do exactly that and more. One girl searches Harper’s lunch plate for rogue seafood (which Harper is allergic to), and while Harper thinks it’s a bit much, she’s also touched at what she feels is this girl’s protectiveness.

As much as Harper grows through the story, I felt like this codependent/passive behavior on her part and the controlling or hypervigilant behavior on the part of the people around her doesn’t really get addressed. She has other conflicts with her friends which also end in an unsatisfying way for me. It felt like instead of really working through an issue, she avoids her friends for a while until she feels bad that they’re still sad and then decides to be friends again.

While I think that makes sense in a high school age character, I wish there had at least been an acknowledgement of the unhealthiness of some of Harper’s actions and relationships.

All in all, there were things I enjoyed about the book, and things I struggled with. I’m kind of split on this one. Readers who enjoyed GET IT TOGETHER, DELILAH by Erin Gough may like this one.

Forward March on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Harper is ace and a lesbian. Margot is a lesbian. Other LGBTQ+ minor characters.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls. Reference to explicit text messages (the content of the messages isn’t revealed).

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Some homophobic and transphobic comments and behavior. Harper worries that her parents will throw her out or force her to go to conversion therapy if they learn that she’s queer. The dean of the school does not acknowledge or respect a nonbinary student’s identity. Some mentions of self-harm.

Drug Content
Some students drink beer at a bonfire. Two people (one student, one not) talk about unhealthy parts of their lives in which they drank too much alcohol and needed to get help.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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