Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Boy Meets Boy


By David Levithan

It's an alternate gay universe, where the high school's star quarterback is also a drag queen named "Infinite Darlene!" Paul is a Sophomore, with a group of friends who are gay and straight - and being gay is no big deal.

Paul crushes on Noah, but then Paul's ex, Kyle, wants to get back together...

In David's words:

This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.

If only MY high school experience had been like this!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

6 comments:

haydenthorne said...

Hey Lee, good to see you back!

*****

The city in which Levithan’s story takes place is an alternate reality - an optimistic view of how things can be if the GLBT community were welcomed with open arms. Kids come out to their families and are happily embraced. In fact - such as in Paul’s case - families come together to not only defend their gay kids (and others’ gay kids), but also ensure that they live a normal, happy youth by driving them to their dates or acting as go-between to help patch up a troubled romance. It’s a place where the local high school doesn’t blink at the fact that its star quarterback is also a drag queen, and where school bookies openly set odds on hookups and breakups, regardless of sexual orientation. Straight kids, faculty, and queer kids all study, goof off, and work toward their dreams side-by-side.

It might be a startling premise at first, especially if one were used to the heavier angst that’s long defined GLBT YA fiction. After reading past the first chapter with eyebrows raised, however, I was quickly swept up by Paul’s story, and through the whole thing, I began to see Levithan’s purpose and say, “Yeah, this is what can be for our kids.” Actually, I’d rather go one step further and say, “This is what should be.”

That said, however, there’s still some angst happening in the story - teen angst, of course, involving romance (Paul and Noah), friendship (Paul and Joni), identity confusion (Kyle), and parental acceptance (Tony, who lives in a different city and whose parents are devout Christians). But the problems aren’t drawn heavy-handedly, and even Tony, whose situation is the most serious and heartbreaking, works through his problems with a level head and a wonderful display of respect for his parents despite the stranglehold their faith has on them. He challenges, them, sure, but his methods are subtle, while opening Paul’s eyes to the fact that behind his parents’ obvious intractability, they really do love their son and want nothing but the best for him - as defined by their faith.

Paul’s likability as the main character helps bring the story alive, and we laugh along with every wry observation he makes about himself, his friends, and his family. What makes such a light-hearted, upbeat, and rosy view of a gay kid’s life work is the way Levithan places a lot of emphasis on the quirks of human nature, and readers can see themselves in just about every character at different points in the story. There’s a lot of affection and respect in Levithan’s treatment of the way Paul and his friends bungle their way through their issues. When the final scene comes around, and I hear Paul say, “What a wonderful world,” I can look past the somewhat cloying nature of the moment and agree with him.

The side characters aren’t as well drawn as Paul (save perhaps for Tony), but they still give us a crazy and complex mix of people. Infinite Darlene, Ted, Joni, Kyle, Noah, and a host of other characters come alive in a Dickensian sort of fashion - offbeat and at times stealing the scene from Paul. They help propel the story forward and maintain its sharp pace with all the trappings of lurid, soap operatic high school drama, and one can’t help but snigger and shake his/her head amid the teen wreckage.

There are a lot of ways that a gay kid’s story can be told. Angst-ridden drama is one of them, and it’s a powerful method of opening minds to the issues faced by a marginalized group in society. The opposite end of the spectrum can be just as effective, though, with the novel offering a hopeful and unabashedly cheerful glimpse into a reality that’s certainly attainable if we work hard enough to reach that point.

Anonymous said...

This book will have you laughing aloud! It gets more and more ridiculous with each page, and more and more heart warming till the resolution. I thinks this is a MUST read!

Anonymous said...

One of the things I loved so much about this book? Definitely that Darlene the Drag Queen was there. Not too many gay books have drag queens and I think that they're always a fun component.

Anonymous said...

Great book! I couldn't put it down. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a nice, easy read!

Anonymous said...

I was introduced to this book in Audio format. Full Cast Audio recorded this with a Full Cast of actors (not just a single reader) and it COMES ALIVE! I've read (listened) to this novel so many times I'm going to wear out the cd's.

Janet said...

Loved loved loved this little book! The romance between Paul and Noah is so sweet.