The Gravity Between Us
Full confession. I chose this book based on this unintentionally erroneous description: “Heroine is a young movie starlet, and hero is the guy who knew her back before she was famous.” When I realized about halfway through the first chapter that The Gravity Between Us is, in fact, a love story about two females, I was a bit taken aback. But love is love, so I settled in for a romantic tale. Sadly, the story itself turned out to be a hang-up.
Payton Taylor and Kendall Bettencourt have been best friends forever. Even though Kendall is now a big-time movie star, the two can still rely on each other for anything. But Payton’s feelings for Kendall have grown beyond those of mere friendship. While she’s not brave enough to admit that she’s in love with her beautiful best friend, Payton does muster the courage to tell Kendall that she’s gay. Thankfully, Kendall takes the news without a pause, and Payton relaxes, resigning herself to a lifetime of unrequited love.
Kendall determines she needs to learn more about music to help her career and arranges for Payton – a music major – to move to LA to serve as her personal music instructor. Payton is dazzled by Kendall’s glamorous life but not sure how to fit in with the celebrity crowd. When Lauren, Kendall’s costar in an upcoming movie, asks Payton to attend a fancy New Year’s Eve party as her date, Payton is flattered and intrigued. This may be her chance to finally get over Kendall.
To Kendall’s dismay, she finds herself very jealous at the prospect of Payton dating Lauren or anyone else for that matter. She doesn’t understand why her feelings for Payton have suddenly become so much deeper than friendship. She’s not a lesbian. She dates guys. But now that she knows that Payton is gay, Kendall can’t stop thinking of her in that way.
Even if the two did move their relationship to the next level, Kendall’s fame throws a complication in the mix. She’s barely accepted the truth about herself before she’s forced to face the public’s perception and judgment. The couple has to decide what sacrifices they are willing to make to be together.
While not a bad book, The Gravity Between Us read like a wish fulfillment fantasy of the highest order. Everyone is simply too perfect and everything happens so smoothly. Payton isn’t just a music major, she’s practically a musical prodigy accepted into a competitive music school with nothing more than a taped audition. Kendall isn’t just a successful actor; she’s been cast to star in the movie that everyone in Hollywood is talking about. She’s up for all of the big awards (even one given by a LGBT group despite the fact that she’s not, to their knowledge, gay), she lives in a fabulous penthouse apartment and has oodles of money. And did I mention that both of these girls are only 19?
Once Payton arrives in LA, everyone she meets goes on and on about how gorgeous she is and how she should be a model. Naturally, the first beautiful lesbian Payton meets wants to date her. This rings very false to me, coming from people in a town and an industry absolutely filled to overflowing with beautiful people, and Payton would be nothing more than another pretty face.
Even the conflict was virtually conflict-free and short-lived. Within the first chapter, Payton, who has lived 19 years in the closet, has come out to Kendall, Kendall’s parents, and two other close friends. Everyone accepts this without even so much as the blink of an eye. Except for her best guy friend, of course, who stereotypically asks her lewd questions about what physical attributes she’s looking for in a woman. It made me wonder why Payton had been so afraid to tell anyone since clearly they were very accepting of her.
Without consulting Payton at all, Kendall arranges for Payton to have a whole new life in LA – a place to live (with Kendall), entrance into a top-notch music program, a “job” to pay for her tuition, even shipping Payton’s car across the country so that she won’t have to rely on LA’s spotty public transportation. Payton offers only flimsy objections before agreeing, even though it means leaving her college, her home, and her single-parent mother all alone. The whole situation read as very overbearing on Kendall’s part, and I couldn’t help wonder how this scenario might have appeared had she been a man.
Nothing at all happened that I didn’t expect. For example, at one point, I read a sentence where Kendall was signing autographs and she spots a man in the crowd with a little girl sitting on his shoulders. Before I read another word, I mentally guessed that the girl would be disabled in some way. Sure enough, two sentences later revealed that she had metal braces on her legs, and Kendall is a big hero when she climbs over the barricades to take pictures with her.
When the couple begins to suffer the consequences of their relationship, they come in such stereotypical ways it felt as if I were reading an After School Special. Kendall’s mother is hugely judgmental and throws out hot button phrases such as “lifestyle choice” and “[just] haven’t met the right man yet”. I won’t reveal the solution to Kendall and Payton’s problems, but suffice it to say, it totally fit the Hollywood setting.
While I’m supremely unqualified and therefore presumptuous, to discuss the experiences of gay people, I felt like the handling of Payton’s coming out and Kendall’s realization that she herself was a lesbian was somewhat of an afterthought. Coming out, and even more profoundly, coming to terms with the fact that you are a homosexual, seems like it would be a huge, life-defining thing. Yet both are treated as minor steps that must be dealt with so that the love story can take place. Payton is in the closet, so she comes out with no fuss, no muss. Kendall never suspected she might be a homosexual until after Payton admits that she’s a lesbian. With minimal internal struggle, Kendall accepts and acts on feelings that she’s never had before. It seems to me like these experiences would have had more impact on the characters than they did. If Zimmer wanted to focus on the love story rather than issues faced by gay couples, perhaps these key events could have happened before the first page.
Like I said, this isn’t a bad book, and if you enjoy pure escapism with little connection to reality, you may enjoy it more than I did. In the end, The Gravity Between Us was simply too much of a fairy tale for me.