Hello all! Sorry about the brief hiatus – I moved back to my home-sweet-school apartment and was hit with a bout of nesting that led to freshly vacuumed carpet, a mopped kitchen floor, hung picture frames, and no time for blogging! But it’s alright – I wanted to make sure and give this book time to sit anyway.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan is EXACTLY the kind of book that I would have wet myself over in high school. And I didn’t enjoy it any less now than I would have then, even if my sense of the “realities of love” is a little more grounded than it used to be! I originally picked up this tiny blue volume because it’s going to make FABULOUS research for my English honors thesis (the formulations of ‘understanding’ in LGTBQ teen fiction as a way to examine moves towards positive social acceptance) but by the end of the first chapter all of that went right out the window.
Levithan describes the story so well himself: “This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: 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.” In essence, this book takes place in a place that has put sexuality in a category where it no longer even needs to be categorized. There are still the brief glimpses of parents who don’t approve or religious zealots spewing the standard homophobia, but, for the most part, the kids of this book know their sexuality and are comfortable with it. This isn’t to say that they don’t go through the normal teen drama – of course they do! Backstabbing friends, hurtful gossips, new loves, lost loves, dances and dates, all the things that make up YA novels are still present in this book. But they’re done in a way that makes them seem fresh, makes it not as cringe-worthy as teen lit can sometimes be.
When Paul meets Noah, he knows things are different, and indeed Noah looks to be the kind of literary dream hunk I would have (and still do!) swoon over, no matter how unrealistic. He takes haunting black-and-white photography, he paints music (here Levithan’s writing really shines – it’s hard to make pages of color description sound interesting, but he does it with the best of them!) and he loves Paul for who he is. Plus, he’s slightly emotionally damaged, making him slightly angsty in that oh-so-adorable way. Paul, as a character, is more secure in himself than I can ever remember being as a sophomore in high school, and even when it seems like all of his friends, family, and social activities are falling apart, he manages to pull himself together – again, and hope that everything will turn out okay. It is, to be honest, hopelessly hopeful and unrealistic, but I ate it up like watermelon in summer.
There are shades of darkness in the book, as well – hints at the depression and suicidal thoughts that can so easily overwhelm those who are told that they are “different”, “unworthy”, or “wrong”. But, for the characters in this book, none of that actually comes to be. It’s a nice change, considering that before the late 80s it is almost impossible to find a YA book concerning LGTBQ issues that didn’t involve the tragic death of at least one of the characters.
I’m going to be counting this one towards the M/M Romance Challenge because it did, obviously, feature a M/M Romance, however I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not quite going to…gel with all of the other books I’m hoping to read for the challenge. But, either way, I can’t recommend the book highly enough. No matter what your personal belief on LGTBQ issues, the book offers even greater messages about friendship, hope, and self-assurance. Up next on the list? Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris, which I picked up in a wonderfully successful trip to the library, and the worlds biggest cup of spiced apple cider (I stocked up on the last bit that my local grocer had before it goes back on the ‘non-seasonal’ shelf) which, to me, sounds like quite possibly the best way to celebrate the last few days before school starts. Happy reading!