Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
There is a word that came to my mind when I read this book: Innocence. This is a book about innocence. And expectation, and hope, and high school, which also means it was about disappointment and pain and snarkiness and betrayals. But it was mostly about innocence.
The tone of the book may be difficult to judge. Is it a satire? A fantasy? The book is really about people too good to be true in a town too pastel to be realistic – too accepting, too loving, too narrow, too harsh, too campy. One could try and criticize the book for being more black-and-white than real life tends to be, but just when the characters are being complete stereotypes, a glimmer of something else comes through….
I loved this book, and was really surprised by that, and had a really hard time coming up with something to say about it that wasn’t gushing. In truth, my main criticism would be that the one Asian character portrayed was the head of a committee, and very officious and efficient — a major stereotype. Second, there were no characters of any other racial minority. My third criticism is that Christian characters get short shrift – they’re portrayed as narrow and mildly psychotic. Of course, I’ve already said that the world portrayed in this book is fairly unreal, so all this goes with a grain of salt…
The voice in this book is clear and self-confident and consistent. Funny and sweet, at times hilarious, and by turns heartbreaking, boy meets boy is written with an emotional surety that almost belies the fact that the narrator is supposed to be a sophomore in high school. The characters – gay, straight, transgender, ‘ambisexual’ – are less concerned with preferences than they are with survival. Though the book portrays something of a ‘Gaytopia,’ adolescence still has its difficulties, which comes through.
This book may do for GLTB, etc. teens what Blume’s Forever did for many other teens – to aggressively normalize the preferences, choices and decisions with which these teens are faced. Unlike Blume’s manifesto, however, there is a charming wistfulness to the whimsical portrayal of this town. One wishes it actually existed. Truly, it would be the second best thing to heaven, for there no one is doing any scheming, hurtful thing on purpose. They’re just trying to live life the best way they can. The best I can offer you is to read this book. It’s difficult to asses it.
Like it? Hate it? Read it?
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