"The book takes us on the usual journey for teens; that of love, lost love and love found again only of course this time it’s two boys"
Openly gay sophomore Paul lives in a gay-friendly small town in New Jersey, where homosexuality, bisexuality, and being transgender is accepted and embraced. His best friends at this stage are Joni, who he has been best friends with since early childhood and who he came out to in second grade, and Tony, who is also gay and who lives in the (much less accepting) next town over with his strict religious parents. The book takes us on the usual journey for teens; that of love, lost love and love found again only of course this time it’s two boys. Joni is also in a relationship but it turns out that her new boyfriend is demanding and controlling. Another great storyline to be tackling.
Noah, the new love interest for Paul who has been to several schools in the last few years throws Paul's life upside down. He (Paul) at first blows it but then figures things out. There is an interesting side story of how Paul and his ex (Kyle) figure out how to exist as "only" friends. Unfortunately, there is one huge problem with this book. The town is just TOO gay friendly. The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. Whilst I love reading fantasy books, well this is just a little too far. I cannot see any small town with a high-heel wearing quarterback that is allowed (with very little homophobia) to dress as a female, act a complete drama queen/bitch and then put on the football uniform and line out. Just NO. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it happen but it’s not happening anytime soon.
In saying that, I loved how the book draws attention to the exclusion of people who are openly gay from the Boy Scouts of America and to highlight how gay-friendly the nature of Paul's hometown is, the town has exclude the organization; instead they have "Joy Scouts". This is a great commentary and response to what was a real-life situation in “Murica”.
Since the release of the book in 2003 , “Thank God” in 2013 this has changed and as of January 2017 transgender children are also allowed (read HERE)
The story travels along a predictable route of friends pulling apart, fighting and then getting back together. It’s a really nice enjoyable read but couple this with the fantasy World of this uber gay friendly town and it’s just too unrealistic. Surely something has to end up going wrong. But it doesn’t. It’s a perfect, everyone living happily ever after story. And I’m not just being a 40 year old Grinch about this, yes the book is aimed at young adults but they shouldn’t be patronised. This is the real World and something has to go awry.
In saying that, I really liked the story of Tony with the ultra strict parents. This is in fact a realistic plot but it’s nice to see how his friends help and support him. Tony’s story is the one I would like to see developed more and a sequel about his life would be really interesting. How his friends help him is a great template for how straight friends can help their BFF’s when they come out. His story is the one that classes should discuss and debate.
I will be reading more of David Levithans work, I really enjoyed this book and he has written several young adult books about LGBT relationship. He is now considered one of the most important voices in YA literature, you can learn more about him and see a list of his titles on his website HERE. The book is well written and a page turner.
I give this book a 7 out of 10 planets. It loses points because I want to learn more about Tony, I want the book to be a little more realistic and not so predictable.
Other LGBT books I have reviewed are
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde HERE
When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid HERE
Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green HERE
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli HERE
John the Captain Ryan