The story's narrator is Paul, who, like most teenagers, is preoccupied with love and its attendant feelings. However, Paul is gay. He has "always known it," and his kindergarten teacher confirmed it on Paul's report card: "Paul is definitely gay and has very good sense of self." But in high school, things are a bit more complicated. No, it's not what you're thinking. The world in which Paul lives is utterly devoid of homophobia. It's Paul's love life that's complicated. See, Paul finds himself crazy about a new boy, Noah, but is leery of letting his ex-boyfriend, Kyle, know it. Then there's Paul's best friend, Joni, who is dating Chuck, whom everyone hates -- especially Infinite Darlene, the drag queen who serves as both homecoming queen and star quarterback at Paul's high school, which gives a whole new meaning to the term "progressive."
So you see why I likened it to the fairy tales I talked about in YoRY Part 4. I would love this to be every high school (and it reminds me a little of the high school setting for the musical "Zanna Don't!") but that's not gonna happen anytime soon, sadly. Thank goodness that David Levithan imagined it and shared it!
Another queer-themed YA novel I read was Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I actually read this one first, and it inspired me to read Leviathan's other title. (He has several, but I've only read the one, hence my use of the singular.) Again, from Goodreads:
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply in...moreOne cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
I loved this book beyond all reasoning and for a number of different reasons: Each author took a single Will Grayson and wrote from his point of view. Each chapter alternated between the two Will Graysons, so you got each unique point of view and insight into each Will Grayson's life in entirely different voices. I love straight WG's best friend, the enormous and gay Tiny. And I less-than-love gay WG's friend, whose name I am sorry to say I do not remember. And yet, as much as I less-than-loved her, I could see why the character behaved in the way she did. But still... ::shakes head:: I don't want to spoil it for you.
It had been a long time since I'd read any LGBTQ YA--at least that I can remember. I know I read and loved Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden back in the early '90s, but I can't think of another specifically gay-themed YA novel I'd read since. Plenty of adult books I've read have queer themes and characters--and not just the erotic romance books, either--but not so much with the Young Adult. What I love about both Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Boy Meets Boy is that they are written for boys. Or at least they are about boys. Historically, women have gotten less flack for being gay than men have. (Notably, gay male sex was a crime punishable by hard labor and imprisonment in Britain far too long, while there was no law against gay female sex. Okay, it was because of the ignorant belief that women couldn't have sex (as the law defined it?) with each other, but still. It's easier for a tom-boy of a girl to fly under the radar, you know? At least in my pre-teen and teen world, this was the case.) There are loads of YA and Middle Readers books about boys, but until recently, not so many that gave a positive image of and for gay male teens. I love this trend! When I was at Powell's in Portland last November, there was an entire endcap display in the YA section devoted to LGBTQ YA books. I picked up a new one that I haven't read yet called How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, about which I know nothing beyond what you'll find behind that link and the fact that I got it from that endcap.
What about you? Do you have any LGBTQ YA recommendations to offer? I'd love to hear them!
Next, and probably the penultimate YoRY post, will be about the YA lit of New Zealand. Which reminds me, I have a book to look for. I'm crossing my fingers that it's finally available in the US, or at least in Canada. It was too much to pay for and too heavy to pack flying home from NZ last May. I've been impatiently waiting for a North American edition ever since. Wish me luck!